One of the most amazing things that I heard about at our student orientation at Union Theological Seminary last fall was the existence of the “nun farm.” Claire West, a Masters of Divinity student and one of the people behind the Edible Churchyard project at Union, told me about the Bluestone Farm community and the wonderful Sisters who were creating, harvesting, weeding, and living a simple yet grand experiment in spiritually-formed ecologically-sound living in upstate New York.
In my own anticipation to see what the “nun farm” was all about, I began to understand what communities like Bluestone were anticipating. Now, after having spent some actual time with the Sisters, in the dirt and sweat and joy, having left a little piece of my heart at the farm to make sure I return, this anticipation becomes tangible. I am becoming part of a group of seekers, both of the spirit and the land, who are shaping visions of community and civilization as we shift from industrial-technological civilization to ecological civilization.
Bluestone Farm is an anticipatory community, a community that by its very living example is anticipating the coming shape of our communities and civilization, a shape that we hope and work for in such a way that it will be in harmony with the shape of our Mother Earth. We hope, work, and anticipate that this shape of life will not become weakened by a romanticism or an idealism which doesn’t have it’s feet in the ground, its hands in the dirt, or which stands apart or aloof from the concerns of justice, which doesn’t allow the voices of the marginalized, both human and non-human alike, from being heard, honored, and brought to the front.
The deep loving spiritual vision that the Sisters are trying to imbibe and present through their work on the farm is linked to a “new cosmology” of inter-being and inter-spirituality. They explain on their website:
The “new cosmology” is an important theological strand that weaves together great scientific discoveries of recent decades with the wisdom of mystics throughout the ages. The late Thomas Berry was perhaps the first to use this phrase in its theological context, and it has since been further developed by many others, including mathematician Brian Swimme and Sister Miriam MacGillis of Genesis Farm. The new cosmology confirms for our current day what Jesus and prophets from all religious traditions have long said — all living beings are sacred, we are all interconnected and creation is our home and our very being.‘Such a fantastic universe, with its great spiraling galaxies, its supernovas, our solar system, and this privileged planet Earth! All this is held together in the vast curvature of space, poised so precisely in holding all things together in one embrace and yet so lightly that the creative expansion of the universe might continue into the future. We ourselves, with our distinctive capabilities for reflexive thinking, are the most recent wonder of the universe, a special mode of reflecting this larger curvature of the universe itself. If in recent centuries, we have sought to collapse this larger creative curve within the horizons of our own limited being, we must now understand that our own well-being can be achieved only through the well-being of the entire natural world about us. The greater curvature of the universe and of the planet Earth must govern the curvature of our own being… ‘ — Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth
In particular, we offer our companion “travelers” opportunities to experience what it might mean to recognize and embrace our essential spiritual nature as we are transformed from consumers into citizens. We feel our path is one more way in which human civilization might be transformed for the benefit of all.
The vision for the future of the Bluestone Farm community as a whole includes an inter-spiritual center that would give space and facility to many different wisdom traditions to give of their hearts and to receive, to add their own seeds to the farm and their own angles of theological vision. The community also anticipates the shape of spirituality as we move into the dynamically uncertain waves of the 21st century. They want to provide a integrative space for the spiritual and ecological seeker who may not necessarily be inclined to monastic life or other traditional religious and spiritual vocations. Yet it is the strength of the Sisters’ vocation, based in what has worked and open to what will work, and the strength of the community they have built around their vocation, which provides a structure for the 21st century person willingly or unwillingly immersed in the post-structural and the post-modern.
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