|Year of Plenty|
|Written by DOUGLAS B. WALTAR|
|Sunday, 21 August 2011 23:00|
by Craig L. Goodwin (Foreword by Eugene Peterson)|
Sparkhouse Press (imprint of Augsburg Fortress). 220 pages.
Looking for something fresh, restoring, creative? Presbyterian pastor Craig Goodwin’s “Year of Plenty” may be just the thing — a book for our time. From its colorful front cover onward, this readable adventure of one family’s journey invites us into the rich relationships of life: life with land, with food, with children, with neighbors, with local communities, with God.
The story is a creative journey alongside “one suburban family, four rules, and 365 days of homegrown adventure in pursuit of Christian living.” The four rules are these: local; used; homegrown; homemade.
Most of us, I suspect, haven’t given deep thought to what planting peppers, raising chickens and buying local has to do with abundant life, much less faith. Author and pastor Craig Goodwin and his wife Nancy (also a pastor) find themselves in a Seattle Thai restaurant following a burnout Christmas season, yearning for something more. The genius in “Year of Plenty,” like a parable, is its simplicity. The book invites — through personal experiment — a thoughtful analysis of the Gospel in its deeper implications when it comes to issues of food, everyday faith and serious issues of justice.
Is it worth the sticker price? Yes (and a bargain at that). The genuine, playful, transparent tone lets the reader in. The down-to-earth style and hands-in-the-earth application make this both a delightful and curiously prophetic work. Why? Because as members of our overindulgent, consumer-driven economy, we’re offered hope for a better way. For pastors like me, it’s also a warm but steady push to get us outside our secluded studies and sanctuaries into the public world of commerce, local community and culture. One example is the account of how Pastor Goodwin’s church parking lot becomes home to a thriving weekly farmers’ market.
The book’s movement works the seasons. It begins with discontent and ends with hope. It asks large questions, and finds answers in specific details of daily living. Unlike most books that engage Christian life, it refreshingly engages children in the wonder of theology and discovery. Perhaps best of all, it holds its own Benedictine-like rules “softly” so as not to miss the point.
Eventually, the Goodwins take the reader (by trading insurance money on a smashed van for four plane tickets) to the grandeur and problems of Thailand, making connections between local faith, God’s abundance, the centrality of human relationships and the global community.
The book is adventurous and playful in tone. The content is a rich feast, including plentiful interactions with the writings of farmer/poet Wendell Berry and theologians such as Miroslav Volf and Jürgen Moltmann. As an added bonus, the appendix holds a wealth of resources such as how to turn your lawn into a vegetable garden, raising chickens, and basics of homegrown food preservation. A great summertime page-turner!
Beyond details of removing sod or planting squash, there’s enough food for thought to chew on for quite some time. If your interest is caught, check out www.yearofplenty.org. The author, living in the inland Northwest, also hosts an active blog.
DOUGLAS B. WALTAR is pastor of Community Presbyterian Church, Post Falls, Idaho.