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Alumni Put Regent Education to Work at Parish Farming School

March 02, 2017
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"The Parish Farming School...explores...the theological foundations that Erin and I gained at Regent College, but in the pastoral and ecological context of our rust-belt, post-industrial, midwestern American neighborhood."

Erin Tuttle Lockridge (DipCS '10) and Robert Lockridge (MCS '10) are Regent alumni who share a passion for food, farming, and community. Together, they operate the Parish Farming School of Eucharistic Discipleship in Norwood, Ohio. 

The Parish Farming School offers an integrated learning experience combining study and work, feasting and fasting, prayer and learning. Students explore what it means to bear the image of the triune God in post-industrial America. This year’s program runs from May 2 to November 21. Applications are due March 20. Learn more

In the following article, Robert Lockridge reflects on the Parish Farming School's roots.

A couple of years ago, National Public Radio’s Noah Adams put a microphone in my face while I was covered in flour and elbow-deep in pizza dough and said, “So, you went to graduate school for Christian studies and now you’re making pizza. Can you explain this for us?” I offered up what I thought were golden strands, but my words didn’t make the cut for his seven-minute radio story. Here’s take two:

Soon after arriving at Regent in 2005, I discovered in Iain Provan’s Old Testament survey course that my understanding of God and creation had a strongly gnostic bent to it. This understanding, which was incongruent with Scripture, had warped my understanding of who Christ is and what it means to be human and live as a Christian in this world. Studying under Provan, the Wilkinsons, Rikki Watts, and Darrell Johnson, I realized that I was hungering for more than just the renewal of my mind. In classes like Paul Williams’s Christianity and Capitalism, around Loren and Mary Ruth’s dinner table, and through books such as Craig Gay’s The Way of the Modern World, I wrestled with the big questions of Christianity. If indeed, Christ is reconciling all things, I wanted to lay bare before God all the things that needed reconciling within me and to learn how to allow the Gospel to integrate the whole of my life.

My closest friends and I sought to radically live out what we were learning at Regent within the context of our neighborhood and local parish church in East Vancouver. But despite these efforts, I still did not know how to allow the Gospel to seep deep within and to shape the way that I communed with God.

Towards the end of a long, dark winter of wrestling with unreconciled realities within and around me in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, God, unexpectedly, restored to me my childhood love of gardening. I had suppressed this passion since my teen years after “learning” at a Bible study that saving souls was the only thing that mattered to God (see gnosticism). Hungry for a way to cry out to God in lamentation with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind, hungry to hold onto hope in a world that didn’t make much sense, I began pushing seeds as prayers into cold, damp soil and transforming scraps of land here and there into gardens through which I could grow food for people I love. Surprisingly, this made perfect sense. This humble work enlivened me with love for God and for my neighbour and nourished a long-sought peace within me. Slowly, I realized that God was giving me a pastoral vocation as a neighbourhood “parish farmer.”

Ten years later and over two thousand miles away, in what was once a car-manufacturing town in southwest Ohio, my wife, Erin, and I continue in this home-making, eucharistic way, seeking to glorify God with the whole of our lives.

Norwood, a city not unlike many others in this part of the world, bears the weight of economic, ecclesial, and familial abandonment. Many people here feel forgotten by God. In this place, we believe it is deeply important for folks to feast upon God’s abundant provision through the soils of the place they call home: “to taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8), “to come buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1). So, four years ago, we started Moriah Pie, a Friday night, for-profit, pay-as-you’re able restaurant. We serve pizza, salad, soup, and pie using ingredients grown or gathered from the gardens we (and others) tend around our neighbourhood. Through these four years of operating Moriah Pie and during the two growing seasons prior to that, we have come to know this place and its people, allowing God to shape us through the gifts of soil, rain, plants, animals, hard work, harvest, and friendship.

A year ago, Erin and I started the Parish Farming School of Eucharistic Discipleship, now in its second year as a residential internship. It explores many of the theological foundations that Erin and I gained at Regent College, but in the pastoral and ecological context of our rust-belt, post-industrial, Midwestern American neighbourhood. Interns study, gather in our home for discussions and meals, and work cooperatively. Tasks include tending gardens, running Moriah Pie, and stewarding children’s programs that run in conjunction with the restaurant. We warmly invite interested Regent students and graduates to consider joining us for our upcoming growing season, which begins this May. Applications are due March 20, 2017.

Learn more about the Parish Farming School at www.parishfarmingschool.org.

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