The Spirituality of Food, Field, and Table: A Retreat on the Art of Homecoming

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Sponsored by the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative
at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity

in partnership with Warren Wilson College

June 16 – 20, 2013
Warren Wilson College | Swannanoa, NC


How can we live at home in the world? Most of us have a roof over our heads, but we don’t often think of “home” in terms of our watersheds, fields, and communities. How can we learn to dwell within our local ecosystems in a way that sustains, rather than desecrates, God’s abundant creation? How do we become native to a place so that we can move outward from a center of ecological, emotional, and spiritual rootedness?

Whether you are a faith leader or a person who simply wants to go deeper into these issues in your own life, we invite you to join us for The Art of Homecoming, an immersion course from June 16-20.

The skills required to come home require the focus of the whole person—mind, body, and spirit—and it is your whole person who will benefit during this retreat. Following the 1,500 year old Christian monastic patterns of prayer, work, and study, we will follow a daily rhythm that combines spiritual disciplines and ecological practices, a rhythm that can sustain us for the long haul.

The course will take place on the campus of Warren Wilson College, in the lovely Blue Ridge mountains of western North Carolina. Mornings will feature experiential learning in the campus garden and surrounding area, with classes on biointensive gardening, permaculture, creating a community garden, and wild foods foraging. Afternoons will consist of lectures and discussion, engaging in both theological and scriptural reflection on the practices of field and table. After dinner a brief Vespers service of Psalms will conclude the day. Evenings are free to rest, read, or explore nearby Asheville.

For anyone interested in the intersection of Christian spirituality, ecological restoration, and redemptive agriculture, then this course is for you.

Faculty and Workshops

Course Leader

Fred Bahnson | author and director of the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative

Bahnson_Fred2Fred Bahnson is the director of the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. He is the author of Soil and Sacrament: Food, Faith, and Growing Heaven on Earth (Simon & Schuster, 2013) and co-author of Making Peace With the Land (InterVarsity, 2012). In 2005 he co-founded Anathoth Community Garden, a church supported agriculture ministry that he directed until 2009. He lives with his wife Elizabeth and their three sons in Transylvania County, where they tend a ½ acre permaculture orchard and terraced hillside gardens.

Workshop: Consider the Lilies, How They Grow

If Jesus told his disciples to “consider the lilies of the field, how they grow,” how might that apply to the way we grow food? The created order is our standard, we might infer from Jesus’ words. A host of modern thinkers are now saying something quite similar, and they’re calling it “regenerative agriculture.” It uses nature as the model and measure for our agriculture. In this two-part workshop you will be introduced to practices and concepts of regenerative agricultural practices like biointensive gardening and permaculture. You will build compost piles, learn to double dig a garden bed, and transplant seedlings. And through the combination of hands-on learning and theological reflection, you will be empowered to begin growing some of your own food.



Dr. Gail O’Day | biblical scholar and Dean of the School of Divinity

faculty-odayGail O’Day is Dean and Professor of New Testament and Preaching at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity. A graduate of Brown University, O’Day earned a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and a doctorate in New Testament from Emory. She is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. O’Day’s scholarly research focuses on the Gospel of John, the Bible and preaching, and the history of biblical interpretation. She has written a number of books and articles, including the commentary on the Gospel of John in The New Interpreters Bible (1996) and Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: A Guide (Abingdon Press, 2007). She was editor of the Journal of Biblical Literature from 1999-2006 and is currently General Editor of the Society of Biblical Literature book series, Early Christianity and its Literature.

WorkshopGarden Spirituality in the New Testament

Garden. Vineyard.  Mustard seed. Tree of life. Soil. Root. Branch.  In this session we will explore together agricultural imagery that is at the heart of biblical stories and teachings. Our traditions invite us to return regularly to the garden, to experience anew how human beings can only thrive when we are integrated into the whole of creation.


Alan Muskat | wild foraging expert

alan-muskatAlan Muskat, philosoforager and epicure of the obscure, has been “going out to eat” for nearly twenty years. Author of Wild Mushrooms: A Taste of Enchantment, he has appeared on The Travel Channel’sBizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern, The History Channel, PBS, CBS, and in magazines as diverse as The New Yorker and Country Living.

He’s even preached on Voice of American, ardently urging the masses to sample, rather than trample, the toadstools. “Wild foods,” says Alan, “are a way of feeling at home in the world, where we are continually provided for and never alone.” Oh, and his mother would like you to know that he graduated from Princeton.

Workshop:  Coming Home to Eat

Read to go wild? Join famed forager Alan Muskat on an adventure “off the eaten path.” On this culinary treasure hunt, you’ll learn how to safely find, identify, appreciate, and maybe even eat wild mushrooms, plants, and other wild cuisine. Whether gathering honey mushrooms or wild persimmons or feasting on ramps and morels, you’ll learn why wild foraging is a “slow food, slow mood” experience, all taught by The Mushroom Man and his unique blend of poetry, stories, wit, and wisdom.


Charles Pettee | musician-in-residence for the week

charles-petteeCharles Pettee made his first foray into traditional music as a child in Asheville, North Carolina. Upon his relocation to Chapel Hill in the early 1980s, Pettee—by this time an accomplished guitarist, mandolinist, singer and songwriter—was drafted into the Shady Grove Band, an internationally known bluegrass group with whom he continues to tour and record. In 2003, Pettee founded FolkPsalm, a group the Independent Weekly described as “rich, engaging new acoustic and bluegrass. . . . The most sophisticated and moving of Pettee’s career.” For three decades and across multiple continents, Pettee has served as an ambassador of traditional music of the North Carolina Piedmont, logging more than 5000 performances in the process. In Pettee’s music, says Pastor Mitchell Simpson of Chapel Hill’s University Baptist Church, “something very old and very true is at work.”

Leading: Daily Lauds and Vespers service

Could the 3,000 year old poems and prayers we call the Psalms have any relevance today? A glance at the Psalter can give the impression that much of the content is simply unrelated to life today, and unfortunately, that is true. Unrelated, in that these works are God-centered, creation-embracing, prophetic, and wisdom-soaked Scriptures which point to a way of being in this world which is very different indeed than what our own culture teaches us. But what if we could experience these sung prayers not as snippets of an ancient alien culture, but as beautiful, simple songs that draw us in and enhance our own prayers? Could the haunting laments or the full-throated shouts of joy and pain so beautifully offered throughout the Psalms better help us in our journeys to wholeness and reconciliation if we could sing them too? At the start and close of each day, I heartily look forward to exploring with you “the land of the Psalms.” Amen.


Dr. Laura Lengnick | Sustainable Agriculture, Warren Wilson College

laura-lengnickLaura Lengnick is on the faculty of the Environmental Studies Department at Warren Wilson College where she directs the Sustainable Agriculture Program.  She is fascinated by the behavior of social-ecological systems of all kinds, but especially those involving the production of food and fiber. For more than 25 years, Laura has actively explored agricultural systems as a researcher, policy-maker, community activist, professor and farmer to better understand what it takes to move sustainability values into action on the farm, in our communities, and as a nation.  While on sabbatical in 2011/12, Laura researched agricultural resilience to climate change as a lead author of the recently released USDA report “Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation.”

Workshop: Changing the Way We Eat, To Create The World We Want

Consumers are creators. We create the world with every dollar that we spend.  This session invites you to a new awareness of the ecological, social and economic impacts of your daily consumption of food and how sustainable agriculture offers a hopeful and resilient response.  Resilience thinking inspires personal and community-scale changes that restore ecological health, promote social equity, and improve our capacity to thrive in a world increasingly challenged by resource scarcity and climate change.


Dr. Mallory McDuff | Environmental Studies,Warren Wilson College

mallory-mcduffMallory McDuff teaches environmental education at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC. A lifelong Episcopalian, she was raised in a family that integrated faith and the environment through actions such as giving up trash for Lent. She is the author of Natural Saints: How People of Faith are Working to Save God’s Earth (OUP, 2010) and Sacred Acts: How Churches are Working to Protect Earth’s Climate (New Society Publishers, 2012). Mallory is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, Sojourners, and USA Today. She lives on campus at Warren Wilson with her daughters Maya, 14, and Annie Sky, 7, in a tiny duplex with an expansive view.

WorkshopBe Ye Transformed: Experiencing Transformation by Caring for Creation

Faith communities are like public schools in some ways: with so much on their collective plates, the care of creation or environmental stewardship can seem like an additional task on an overburdened agenda. However some of the most effective congregations are integrating a sense of place into their traditional ministries, such as feeding the hungry, educating youth, promoting justice, and creating sacred space. This session will share research findings from a cross-country journey to document stories of faith and place, as well as a collection of strategies for connecting faith and climate change. Participants will leave the workshop with a hopeful plan for integrating place into a ministry in their own faith community.


Susan Sides | director of The Lord’s Acre

susan-sidesSusan habitually exceeds the limit for the amount of new ideas one is legally allowed to have before breakfast. She is the executive director & garden manager for The Lord’s Acre and was long ago and far away, the head gardener for The Mother Earth News magazine. She will argue that she now has the best job EVER and yet wakes up every day with the goal to make her job irrelevant.

Workshop: Staring a Community Food Project

The Lord’s Acre is a nonprofit garden that works with the strengths of our community to address the fresh food needs of everyone. We love wrestling with questions that go beyond food security and food justice, to the very core of what it means to know and love your neighbor. We look forward to sharing our work and our garden with you and getting to know you as we weed, hoe or plant together.


Brian Ammons | chaplain, Warren Wilson College

brian-ammonsBrian joined Warren Wilson in the summer of 2012, coming to Warren Wilson from Duke University where he served on the Education faculty.  He graduated from NC State University in 1995 with a degree in Middle Grades Education and a minor in English, and went on to earn a Master Education in Special Education while he was teaching in Iredell County and Chapel Hill Carrborro Schools.  Brian received a Masters of Divninty from Wake Forest University in 2003. Upon completion, he was ordained and served as Minister with Youth and Young Adults at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC.  Brian completed his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Cultural Studies with a certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies at UNC-Greensboro in 2010.  Brian has taught courses in gender studies, practical theology, and education at UNCG, Wake Forest, and Duke, and he writes and speaks widely about the intersection of spirituality, sexuality, and justice.  Brian was born and raised in North Carolina, and is grateful to return to his ancestral roots in Appalachia.

As the course chaplain, Brian will coordinate our daily Lauds and Vespers services, and lead group reflection at the day’s end. He will also be available for spiritual direction over the four-day course.

Tentative Schedule

Sunday, June 16

Time Activity
4:00 – 6:00pm Check-In and Registration
5:00 – 6:00pm Dinner (Warren Wilson College Dining Hall)
7:00 – 8:30pm Opening Session and Introductions

Monday, June 17

Time Activity
7:00 – 8:00am Breakfast
8:30 – 9:00am Lauds Service
9:00am – 12:00noon Morning Session in the Warren Wilson College Garden, with Fred Bahnson
12:00 – 1:00pm Lunch
1:00 – 2:00pm Rest
2:00 – 5:00pm Afternoon Session, with Dr. Gail R. O’Day
5:00 – 6:00pm Dinner
7:30 – 8:00pm Vespers Service

Tuesday, June 18

Time Activity
7:00 – 8:00am Breakfast
8:30 – 9:00am Lauds Service
9:00am – 12:00noon Morning Session in the Warren Wilson College Garden, with Fred Bahnson
12:00 – 1:00pm Lunch
1:00 – 2:00pm Rest
2:00 – 5:00pm Afternoon Session, with Dr. Laura Lengnick
5:00 – 6:00pm Dinner
7:30 – 8:00pm Vespers Service

Wednesday, June 19

Time Activity
7:00 – 8:00am Breakfast
8:30 – 9:00am Lauds Service
9:00am – 12:00noon Morning Session: Site Visit to The Lord’s Acre, with Susan Sides
12:00 – 1:00pm Lunch
1:00 – 2:00pm Rest
2:00 – 5:00pm Afternoon Session, with Dr. Mallory McDuff
5:00 – 6:00pm Dinner
7:30 – 8:00pm Vespers Service
8:00 – 9:00pm Evening Concert with FolkPsalm

Thursday, June 20

Time Activity
7:00 – 8:00am Breakfast
8:30 – 9:00am Lauds Service
9:00am – 12:00noon Morning Session on Wild Foraging, with Alan Muscat
12:00 – 1:00pm Lunch and Adjourn

Early Bird (by May 15)

Commuter Rate (Lunch + Tuition only) $350
Shared Room + Meals + Tuition $550
Single Room + Meals + Tuition $650


Regular Rate (after May 15)

Commuter Rate (Lunch + Tuition only) $450
Shared Room + Meals + Tuition $650
Single Room + Meals + Tuition $750


Note: Course limited to 30 participants.