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

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  138 Ratings  ·  31 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
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 6th 2013 by Simon & Schuster
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Mar 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Missionaries, Christians, Community Garden Enthusiasts, Activists
Shelves: free-review-copy
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
Jun 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-won

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
Sep 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebooks
The insights gleaned from this memoir were numerous. First, it sparked a renewed interest in gardening, plant life, and for caring for earth. Secondly, it reminded me that all things are connected. Lastly, it renewed my sense of justice and mercy; that what I have, what I cultivated is meant to be shared. Listed below are some of my favorite quotes:
p.106: "....Finding ways to make love visible. What does it take for this person, this plant, this community to flourish?"
p.116: "Food nourishes peop
Mar 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 16, 2017 rated it liked it
I bought this one from the author at a writer's retreat sponsored by The Sun magazine for its readers and contributors. The author was a sensitive and inspiring instructor, and after I got home and read this memoir about finding his spirituality in farming, I felt I knew him better.
The book describes different farming communities he visits and the people who make them work. All have a spiritual purpose to their tilling of the earth. A refreshing and thought-provoking memoir. I hope he writes ano
Tracey Howe-koch
Mar 01, 2017 rated it liked it
I love reading how different faith groups all come to the same conclusion that working the soil is not only important to the survival of the Earth, but also the fulfillment of the soul. This is definitely worth the read if you are looking for a greater connection between gardening/farming and spirituality.
Sep 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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
Sep 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: farming, christian
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
Mar 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Deb Midgley
Oct 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Dave McNeely
Sep 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Joan Huyser-Honig
Mar 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Leigh  Kramer
Sep 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this spiritual memoir. The author shares his journey of connecting faith with his love of community gardening. The author visits four successful community gardens and shares with the reader his insights about living purposefully, gardening practices, and how faith, people, and the land are all interconnected bringing about community.
Pat Loughery
Aug 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
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
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Cara Meredith
May 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!

Christie Purifoy
May 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this one. Rich and readable.
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Inspiring and wonderful. It's help for the aspiring gardener who digs in the soil because her soul needs to be close to the earth.
Aug 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A glorious read.
Jan 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hope-csa
Nov 01, 2013 rated it liked it
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 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.” 6 likes
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