July 5, 2018
By Mike Ziemerink
In the early morning hours of June 3, more than 200 church-goers and friends from Winnipeg, rural Manitoba, and even Germany and the United States piled into cars and vans and descended on Pembina Crossing, Manitoba. They were attending a special Rogation Day worship service and community gathering at St. Luke’s Church in celebration of growing hope.
Specifically, the Anglican Grow Hope project, a joint initiative between the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund in the Diocese of Rupert’s Land. The project will grow crops in the Pembina Valley on land surrounding the tiny church, in order to create revenue to alleviate hunger worldwide.
St. Luke’s is nestled in the lush and rolling hills of the Pembina Valley. The church was founded in the 1800s and is an integral part of Anglican history in Canada. The white clapboard prairie church was built nearly 100 years ago in 1922 after the original structure burned down. It holds only two services a year: Rogation Day in the Spring, when the Church traditionally asks for God’s blessings on the fruits of the earth and the labours of those who produce our food, and Harvest in the fall.
The Rev. Chris Lea is St. Luke’s priest, but he’s also a partner farmer in the Grow Hope Project. The lands around the church have been owned by the Lea family for generations (the street running parallel to the river is named Chris and Leanne Lea Road and his great grandfather, Richard Lea, was the warden at St. Luke’s for 28 years.)
Rev. Lea’s family has donated 15 acres of land for the Grow Hope project and seeded it with wheat. Churches in the Diocese were keen to participate and raised the $4,500 ($300 per acre) required to cover the input costs for seed and fertilizer. When the Leas harvest and sell the wheat, the proceeds – roughly $400-$450 per acre – will be donated to PWRDF’s account at the Foodgrains Bank. “My main goal [for the project] is to get rural and urban people together for a celebration of life, of the crop, of food, of the food industry, and of everyone that’s involved in agriculture – all in an effort to help provide nourishment and food for people who are underprivileged,” says Rev. Lea.
“One of the things I realized at the celebration service was that a lot of the city people want to be a part of the Foodgrains Bank to help hungry people, but they just didn’t know how to do it,” he adds. “But because of the Grow Hope project, they feel like they have a hands-on approach and participation, and they are excited and keep asking, ‘Oh how’s the crop looking?’ and ‘Oh did you get any rain last night?’”
Rev. Lea and the Rev. Canon Dr. Cathy Campbell, PWRDF’s liaison on the Foodgrains Bank board, presided over the service in a tent behind the church. Rev. Campbell commented that the “kingdom of God is experienced, most often unexpectedly, in moments of connection among people especially the most vulnerable. Like this moment today.”
“It’s not planned or engineered. It comes as a gift – not as a reward for good work. It comes as God’s grace – unconditionally – for free, for all, for ever. It is our deepest, fiercest hope – the kind of hope we are growing today in this Anglican Grow Hope project.”
After the service, folks enjoyed a BBQ lunch prepared by the Leas and read displays from the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and the Primate’s World Development and Relief Fund. Reflecting on the service, Ray Temmerman of St. Peter’s summed it up. “I believe strongly that we need to reach out beyond ourselves as a church, through something that connects us with a wider body.”
— With files from Karen Dunlop, the Rev. Canon Di Panting,
Dr. June M. James and Shaylyn McMahon