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Soil and Sacrament: Four Seasons Among the Keepers of the Earth

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  88 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Part spiritual quest, part agricultural travelogue, this moving and profound exploration of the joy and solace found in returning to the garden is inspiring and beautiful.After he graduated from Duke Divinity School, Fred Bahnson underwent an agrarian conversion. Trading the pulpit for the plough, Bahnson helped start a community garden in Cedar Grove, North Carolina—a tow ...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published August 6th 2013 by Simon & Schuster
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Won this book on Good Reads Giveaway.
While reading Soil and Sacrament: Four Seasons Among the Keepers of the Earth by Fred Bahnson, I remembered the days when my parents were gardeners and raised a lot of the food for our family. Although my father worked during the day, he would come home and head to our small garden for the evening to water and weed and tend the soil, so I could relate to this book about searching for meaning of life by growing your own food and returning to the soil as a way
I admit to a significant bias reading this book--Fred is my cousin, and I have grown up listening to his stories from Chiapas, Anathoth, and beyond. (I have also grown up listening to him and his wife Elizabeth play fiddle and sing, and I have distinctly happy memories from their wedding day.) Reading this book felt like an extension of our family dinners and gatherings, an expression of faith and giving that has always been the core of our fellowship together. It was a treat to read, and I am t ...more
Mar 26, 2014 Libby rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Missionaries, Christians, Community Garden Enthusiasts, Activists
Note: Review originally posted on Sept. 22, 2013, but it was accidentally deleted; here it is in its original text:

Soil and Sacrament: Four Seasons Among the Keepers of the Earth, by Fred Bahnson, delighted me with its "Prologue." It began with a complete sensory experience. No sense was left out and it appeared as though each word had been carefully selected so that every sentence was beautifully crafted. It created a scene in which the reader could easily imagine walking in-step with the autho
Hmmm..... The subtitle on this copy (the real book, not an electronic version!) is "A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith." (So, you know I'm really a cataloger...)

We heard this local author speak at the library, and I like his book even more than I had dreamed I would. Fabulous writing, fabulous thoughts.

Among his four communities are Mepkin Abbey which we've always treasured and God's Acre in Fairview, NC, where the leader, Susan Sides, says, "I have a mustard seed, and I'm not afraid to use it
Such an interesting read. As an avid gardener/urban farmer, I loved Bahnson's journey. He honestly seeks to discover how his soul, and love of God, is connected with his heart passion for people and their need to connect with the soil.

I've always had a curiosity and appreciation for the simple life lived by the monks. I didn't realize there were still agrarian communities like this today. I also, value the deeper rootedness and traditions that the Jewish faith offers. Their prayerful patterns o
I LIKED it. I consider 3 stars high praise because there are many, many, many books I don't like.

The book blurb says, "moving and profound." and I agree. The writing is coherent and thoughtful; the subject is worthy of attention.

Readers interested in philosophical/theological musings will like this book. Those who want action in a plot/narrative will probably get bored. I would have given this book 4 stars if the writing had been zippier; The vocabulary and sentence structure lean toward academ
Fr. River
This book touched my heart and enlivened my spirits. I live in the heart of the City, I work with people who have little hope, use drugs, and I find myself simply wearing out. This book brought renewed hope. It is a book of Bahson's spiritual journey in find Jesus in the soil and in working with ecological farms.

Several nuggets I found in the book:

At Mepkin Abbey, one of the monks commented: "I see work as a very incarnational. Jesus became flesh, muscle, sinew. He put his body where the questi
Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the subject of gardening, Behnson completely won me with his journey from his bucolic community farm to other similar outposts around the continent. Overwhelmed with the mundane problems of running Anathoth, his church's upstart serving a food-insecure community, Bahnson takes a leave of absence, traveling "as an immersion journalist, but also as a pilgrim" (11), and I pilgrimaged along with him. No gardener myself (though I did pick up a few tips from the read) ...more
I didn't like this one as much as I thought I would. Fred Bahnson worked as the director of a church-based community garden in rural North Carolina, but after 4 years he was burnt out and frustrated with church politics over the garden. To remember why he was drawn to church-based community gardens he visits other faith-based gardens and also remembers back to some of his earlier experiences that drew him to the garden/spiritual parallel. There were some aspects of the book that were very intere ...more
There seems to be a growing fascination in our culture with wanting to know where our food comes from, and a desire to get back to a simpler way of living. There are plenty of books out there on these topics. But this book focuses on the spiritual benefits of a life lived in connection with the land. The author spends time with groups of people from different faiths who are involved in community gardens. He first spent time with some monks, and one thing that has stuck with me from the book was ...more
Joan Huyser-Honig
Among all the books that deal with some combination of theology, gardening, farming, and eating, Soil and Sacrament is the best I've read. Bahnson weaves real life stories and personal revelations with thoughtful reflections on Scripture and the clash between industrial and sustainable food systems.
Deb Midgley
Fred Bahnson takes us on an unique journey through various faith-based agarian communities, linking faith to the soil. Along the way he connects how we nourish ourselves both spiritually and literally, by eating home grown, organic food .Fred,himself, toiled in a faith-based community called Anathoth whose goal was to feed the poor. From discussing the original garden (Eden) in Genesis to learning about current faith-based gardens,I was eager to learn how different movements- Catholic, Protestan ...more
Fred Bahnson takes readers along on his own journey of faith. Feeling a deep spiritual need to feed the world, he tackles small areas at a time, starting in community and faith-based gardens. His search for balance takes him to Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina, to a Pentecostal farm, an experiment with former drug addicts turning to the land for comfort and an ancient Jewish harvest festival. He and the people have profound spiritual experiences tied to the soil and each other. A moving book for a ...more
Dave McNeely
This book was a wonderful match of fascinating content coupled with beautiful prose. Bahnson wrote this book after serving as the Founding Director of Anathoth Community Garden in Cedar Grove, NC. This book - part memoir, part practical theology - alternates between Bahnson's journey to and through Anathoth along with his other explorations of a cadre of diverse faith-based community gardens in the United States. Well worth the read for anyone, regardless of your interest in food & faith iss ...more
Christie Purifoy
Loved this one. Rich and readable.
Leigh  Kramer
Beautifully written exploration of the relationship between faith and food, especially the garden and soil. But I hasten to add, this is for more than gardeners and farmers. It's for all of us seeking, all of us eating. The writing is alive and the content moved me time and again. I wanted to underline whole chapters and often shared quotes with friends. This is a book I'll return to often.
Cara Meredith
If the spiritual and food are your passions, then this is an absolute must-read. I loved his journeys with the land, and how he incorporated non-threatening parts of Christianity and Judaism ( in particular) into his story. Lovely.
Kelly Buntin
Worth the time invested to read and distill the information shared about different types of community gardens . I would recommend this writer/gardener's story about his personal path of learning about growing your own food lifestyle.
Jamie Howison
I read this one very gradually in the context of a book group, but suspect that I'll re-read it sometime over the summer. A really fine set of stories and musings on the connections between food, spirituality, faith and community.
One man's journey to find God in gardening. He travels to different faith-based community gardens and ponders how his spiritual life is interwoven with his natural life. Quite introspective. There are some challenging ideas here!

Pat Loughery
A fascinating and engaging book - part memoir, part theology of food, part ecology. Very well written, and much more approachable than other (also excellent) work by Bahnson or his colleague Norman Wirzba.
This book made me want to run away and join a community gardening community, and I am not the least bit interested in working the land. Symbolism runs deep in this book, but not in a sentimental way.
Fantastic. It moved me to tears in the last pages. Insightful, theologically deep, contemplative, festive. It is full of quiet inspiration.
I love the general message behind this book but sometimes found it a bit tedious to read. Very challenging way to live.
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  • The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture
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  • Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again
  • Practicing the Way of Jesus: Life Together in the Kingdom of Love
  • Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening
  • Living Into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us
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“The music, the prayers, the bowing and rising, the incense--all of it was breaking down my defenses. That's what good liturgy does. It breaks your heart open and turns you toward God.” 4 likes
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