Report on the Southern Alberta Permaculture Convergence

Part 1:  Permaculture, Spirituality, and the Church

“The market for something to believe in is infinite.”  Hugh McLeod

On Friday and Saturday, I attended the Southern Alberta Permaculture Convergence in Turner Valley, and discovered I did not understand what permaculture was really promoting.  I thought it was about holistic engagement with the environment in gardening and landscaping.  Permaculture promotes holistic engagement with life in general with a focus on our relationship with the natural environment but including all relationships.  The use of convergence rather than conference now makes sense to me (converge means to tend to a common result or conclusion).  The understanding started with the key note presentation by Javan Bernakovitch on Right Livelihood, which started with being in a right relationship with our selves and moved on to our relationship with the society around us.

For me, spirituality means connection, whether it is with our selves, other people, the world around us, or with a higher power we can name as God, Allah, Spirit, Father, Lord, or whatever other name we choose.  With this in mind, permaculture to me is a spiritual movement. 

I believe the focus of the ministry of Jesus was relationship:  relationship with God, with others, and with our selves, and his focus was making those relationships positive.  He cared about the people who were poor, hungry, and isolated and emphasized how important those people were to God.  Relationship centres much of our vision and mission at St. Andrew’s.  Our mission statement begins with, St. Andrew’s is a safe place where we are intentionally inclusive and all are welcome.”   Our vision statement is, “God is calling us to continue and deepen our commitment to intentional spiritual worship, to faith formation for all ages and to offer our heart-felt assistance to those in need.”

Permaculture is a new movement that got rolling in the 1970s, and it engages people of all ages and walks of life.  There were people of most ages, from close to new born babies to people my age and older, male and female, at the Convergence in Turner Valley.  They have many ambassadors growing the movement and developing interest in Permaculture.  The Church becomes increasingly dominated by older people and the general view in society tends to be more negative than positive with certain self-appointed representatives of the Christian Church making it appear we are mostly prejudiced, judgemental and not really very nice people.  When I was talking with a few people at supper on Saturday about my BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) for St. Andrew’s, one person brought up the issue of conversion, even though I never said or implied anything about the need for conversion.  While some people may see Permaculture as a “hippy thing”, that is far less a negative than the assumptions many have about the church.

  Our goals at St. Andrew’s are not substantially different from the goals of Permaculture, and I hope we can learn from them.  In my coming blogs I will be expanding on what we as church can learn from the people engaged in permaculture, and I am thankful for the experiences and connections I was able to make.