Planting peas on St. Patrick’s Day is an old American gardening tradition. It is also The Table’s annual community party to kick off the growing season in South Denver, Colo., followed not long after by Good Friday potato planting. The Table, identified as an emerging congregation of the Christian Reformed Church in 2011, describes its ministry as “a unique movement of mission communities in multiple Denver neighborhoods.” Urban farming and community meals are some of the ways they “experience life-giving and authentic community” together. Like so many other spring traditions, early planting looked different this year for The Table.
Normally, the pea planting event is a large gathering including a potluck featuring green foods and drinks. It is organized by Jeanine Broek, head of the intern and volunteer teams at The Table and co-director with her husband Craig. “The peas always mark the beginning of the season and it's a reason to celebrate,” said Craig.
This year, Jeanine carefully coordinated volunteers and families, staggering their arrivals. Six family groups came to plant the peas, each at an assigned time, 30 minutes per section of garden bed. Even with these changes (and without a potluck), carrying out the planting on the traditional day provided a sense of normalcy, said Craig, “I think people are grateful to get outside and participate in something normal, the changing of the season; and (something) hopeful, the planting of seeds.”
Planting and harvesting food is at the heart of The Table’s approach to missional living. Each year The Table harvests up to 6,000 pounds of food and distributes the harvest to their neighborhoods. Gardening opens new doors while strengthening The Table’s existing community, as community life and work then leads to worship. This is why Craig, a minister of the Word with the CRC, calls gardening, “the front lines of our work in doing something that benefits the community... (and) also creates a point of entry into the lives of our neighbors.”
Heading into the rest of the growing season, some things remain uncertain for The Table. “With the fallout from the virus this year we are reconsidering how we might share food,” said Craig. Jeanine said the first pea planting day showed that there is still a community interest in being involved in planting. “More people wanted to participate than we could use that day.”
On Good Friday they had a similar turnout. Jeanine said six households—again arriving in staggered groups and wearing masks—came to plant at four locations. She learned the Good Friday potato tradition from her grandmother. Underground, the seed potato dies before it sprouts into life again, many times multiplied. Jeanine said, "I guess this is the mystery, echoed in our faith, that invigorates my work because this is the mystery I get to share with friends who volunteer."