2013: A year of food – Food Matters

Food Matters is a new project from the Diocese of Oxford to help churches reconnect with the seasons, celebrate festivals, and explore global and local food related themes.

Food Matters starts with a launch event from 7.30pm on 24 January in Oxford when four exceptional people – Roy Lambourne (farmer and agricultural consultant); Mike Rayner (priest and public health expert); Ruth Valerio (theologian, author and activist); and Paul Valentin (international director of Christian Aid) will speak about “What Food Means to Me.”

Please do join us for this event – details and registration at: www.foodmatters.org.uk/launch-event/

We’re also asking people to share what food means to them as Christians. See what others have said and add your thoughts on the Food Matters website at: www.foodmatters.org.uk/what-does-food-mean-to-you/

Join the Food Matters mailing list to receive an email about the first Food Matters resource at the end of January called “Preparing the Ground” and focussed on winter. Three further resources will follow in the year –  ideas for celebrating festivals and with opportunities to reflect; to pray; to “grow your own”; to share local and global stories; and to take action for a fairer food system for all.

Find out more and join the Food Matters mailing list at www.foodmatters.org.uk.


Food Matters Conference – 1-3 October 2012

This unique event will bring together leading theologians, policy experts and activists to grapple with vital questions about food, hunger and poverty.

Presentations, discussions, workshops and worship will look at our theology of food, how we enable food security in a resource- constrained and overheating planet, who has the power over our food systems and how they are using it – as well as inspiring examples of ways in which these issues are being addressed by individuals, churches and agencies, and explore how we can all be part of the solution, both locally and globally.


Download booking form

Unearthing the secret to growing your own

The secret to growing food in your garden isn’t about expert knowledge, space or time – it is about doing it with a group of friends and helping one another get started. Bringing people together and starting such a group is straight forward and rewarding with Grow Zones, a community growing resource with a difference.

Unlike many other community growing initiatives Grow Zones equips people to use the power of community growing to grow fruit and vegetables in their own gardens, rather than a shared piece of land. This makes it a much simpler process, with a much quicker and rewarding impact.

The approach is simple. A team gather, share ideas and expertise, and help one another plan their growing season. They then get together for an easy schedule of Saturday morning visits to each others gardens. Everyone brings any useful tools they have for the jobs that morning and something to share for lunch. The host gets everyone to work on tasks they have planned for their garden, and the morning ends with a real sense of accomplishment and a shared meal.

The result is powerful: gardens are transformed and enjoyed; knowledge and expertise are shared; friendships are made and strengthened; and fruit and vegetables are grown like never before.

Last year the anglican church hOME facilitated a Grow Zones team in the spring and the autumn. When asked what was good about Grow Zones for them, those involved commented:

Simple, yet effective. Builds community far more effectively than a discussion group.

Lots of people feel instinctively that they want to make more of their small plot of earth (and get better connected to nature) but don’t know how or where to start. Grow Zones is a simple and fun way to do all that.

As a relatively new person to church, it has been great to get to know people better in a relaxed and informal way.

Working on a shared project with other people brings a group together.  It’s also easy to chat while you work without it feeling ‘forced’.

Grow Zones has helped us grow closer together as a community and closer to the land as we learn how to use it fruitfully.

The Grow Zones Kit helps everyone from seasoned gardeners to beginners to bring people together and start a group. The kit addresses the challenges facing a new grower with little time, little knowledge and little space, and provides all you need to plan and facilitate a team.

The gardening writer and presenter Alys Fowler said about the Grow Zones Kit: “At last, an easy to use guide on how to get a community group up and running. This is a brilliant resource for anyone who wants to gather some like-minded people together to get gardening. Now all you have to do is get out there and garden!”

Why not start a Grow Zones team in your area? Find out more and order a kit at www.growzones.com

What is so special about homemade?

Chris Sunderland from EarthAbbey reflects on the recent harvest festival celebrations he has been involved in.

Why did many people say it felt so good to celebrate in this way? Part of the attraction was that it was something we had done ourselves. It felt raw and approachable. There was no hype, or hard sell. There were no celebrities, no big egos. We were just human beings who had done something.

What is so special about homemade?


The recent Homemade Festival here in Bristol had a very special feel to it. I wondered why. We had asked people to come and contribute something they had made, or grown, or cooked, or music they could sing, or a game they could lead…

We had food from Poland, Bangladesh, a curry made from homegrown ingredients. We had musicians, all working unplugged, a group which sang unaccompanied, others who had written their own work. We sat around on straw bales, eating the food, which was served from our new outdoor kitchen, which had been built by the community using traditional woodworking skills and unmachined wood. Outside the young people were playing, making dens and walkways between trees in the park beside the road, while a whole selection of crafts were displayed with bright quilts, and other textiles, homemade carpets and cakes.

imageThe focus of the festival was our Walled Garden in Barton Hill in Bristol. Many people took the chance to see what had been going on there, like the remarkable pumpkin that had spread so far, even up the trees or the thirty types of tomato and the beginnings of the forest garden. The garden is still in its early stages really, but it is already a great place to be. Soon there will be a roundhouse, built as a reflective space, a cob oven for the new kitchen and a rainwater harvesting system.

We had organised the festival in partnership with many of the local organisations and the burden of responsibilities had been shared between different people. Many people said it felt good.
I guess part of the attraction was that it was something we had done ourselves. It felt raw and approachable. There was no hype, or hard sell. There were no celebrities, no big egos. We were just human beings who had done something.

Matthew Crawford in his book The Case for Working with your Hands points out how much of our world today is based around pretence of some form or another. We are all very insecure as we shout across the internet to each other, trying to attract attention to our latest idea. Yet he points out that the person who has actually made something need say nothing. They only need to point.

Chris Sunderland, EarthAbbey

This article originally appeared in the EarthAbbey blog and is reproduced with permission.

Creation Tide 2011 – Our Daily Bread Resource

Every year we encourage church communities to observe Creation Tide (aka a Time for Creation) and in 2011 it runs for the five weeks from 1 September to 4 October, which, with the downtime of summer holidays, may mean you need to start planning early.

Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) produce resources for Creation Tide each year, and this year the chosen focus is  ‘Food in God’s creation’ under the heading Our Daily Bread.

CTBI have produced a range of resources to equip churches and help planning  – and they are available now on their website to download. The Our Daily Bread resources include:

  • Sermon notes – include a series of themed sermons for each week of creation tide, plus two longer sermons
  • Re-imagining Harvest – a creative suggestion for a new form of Harvest Festival and community event
  • Ecumenical service outline – complete with PowerPoint presentation
  • Discussion group resource – through two case studies, and questions to aid discussion, a group is equipped to look at farming practices in the UK and ask what does sustainable farming in the UK mean for us?
  • Background paper – a three page background paper on food, agriculture and issues for consumers.

Download all the Our Daily Bread resources here.

Creation Tide resources from previous years can be found here. Also check out other resources mentioned on Earthing Faith.

Do you have resources that could be used in Creation Tide? Get in touch or leave a comment below.

‘What’s the food like?’, ‘Who is providing the food?’, ‘Is there enough food to go round?’ Our everyday talk constantly makes reference to food, which is no surprise, as food and drink are essentials for life and survival.When we pray “Give us our daily bread” we are both acknowledging our dependence on God’s generosity and our realisation that the answer to that prayer needs to include agriculture, commerce, sharing, trade-justice, animal welfare, diet and a host of other considerations.

Grow Zones – get your community growing

How can you combine growing your own delicious food, making new friends, learning a natural growing method, and the opportunity to reconnect at a deep, spiritual level with creation? The answer is Grow Zones, a community growing project that you can start in your neighbourhood and church.

Designed specifically with churches in mind, Grow Zones provides an opportunity to engage new people from your neighbourhood in a simple, practical project that bears on our common concern for the earth.

The idea is very simple. Someone from a local church or neighbourhood hears about Grow Zones and, with the aid of the Grow Zones kit, forms a local team. People are introduced to a natural growing method known as Permaculture and helped to redesign their gardens so they can grow more of their own fruit and veg. Each team is offered insurance as part of the package, and sets out on a series of visits, where they work on one another’s gardens to make their dreams real. The commitment is deliberately light just four mornings make up the whole course, but experience shows that deep bonds form between people, lasting friendships are made and many go on to experience and learn more.

One participant said having experienced Grow Zones:

“I have longed to do something really positive about caring for creation. As part of the Grow Zones pilot in Bristol, and being introduced to Permaculture, I have been set on a fascinating journey that has transformed my view of the world we live in and resulted in my becoming involved in a whole set of community growing projects here in Bristol. It seems to me that reconnecting with the land, and with growing our own food, is an extraordinarily powerful means to help us reconsider how we are living and  to build fresh expressions of community life. There was a sort of implicit and deep spirituality that pervaded our experience of Grow Zones here in Bristol, as if God was there among us as we worked together. As a Christian minister, I have also been concerned to express concern for creation in a way that is more than theory, or just ‘doing without’ something. It seems to me that the great biblical hope for peace and harmony in creation finds real expression in the hearts of those who join together in a project like Grow Zones.”

Start a Grow Zones Team

The GrowZones Kit

Would you be interested in starting a group in your area? You don’t necessarily need to have any gardening experience, all you need is to be good at organising and encouraging people. If you can gather a group of people together, the Grow Zones Kit will provide the help and resources to get you growing for your first season.

For more information, and to start a team, visit www.growzones.com.

Grow Zones is a national project – supported by the Local Food fund – and a series of Christ and the Earth retreat days supports the programme. To book a retreat day and find out more about the community behind Grow Zones visit www.earthabbey.com.


Feeding Oxford

Join speaker Mark Winne for this event entitled ‘Feeding Oxford: Investing in a Food Supply Fit for the Future’.

Author of ‘Closing the Food Gap’, Mark has been a pioneer in the development of just and sustainable food systems in New England for over 30 years. At a time when people are looking for more control over their own food supply, the event is being held to to spark a new debate about how we should feed Oxford.

Date: Tuesday 4th May 8pm
Venue: Vaults and Garden, Radcliffe Square, Oxford

Admission is Free, but space is limited.
To book a space or for further information RSVP to: Ruth West on info@CampaignForRealFarming.org