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Congregational Life

Overgrown

This spring, I have been in my garden like never before. Pruning, pulling, tilling, resting. As I was pulling out some dandelions a few weeks ago, my neighbor called out over the fence and said “You know they’ll grow back again, right?”

Oh, I know. I know because this spring, the weeding has been a constant. The weeds are abundant. Large heads of morning-glory rising up over the rhododendrons. Tall reedy grass coming up through the iris. Mushrooms popping up in the lawn. It is never ending.

It is also partly my fault. For the last several years, gardening has not been high on my list of priorities. The weeds I’ve been pulling today have been growing in place for a few years—left to their own will and way. Blackberry vines rising up from under the groundcloth, and a whole volunteer birch tree that is now too rooted to move.

As I’ve been working to renew parts of my yard, I’ve been thinking about the other things this season is unearthing. We are having a national conversation right now about the structures in our country that provide space for racism and hatred to grow unchecked. The pandemic is particularly exploiting underlying conditions that make us vulnerable to its infection. Organizations are exhausted from constant change when we are generally tooled for steady familiarity.

Like a landscape design, we need a strategic plan—having a vision for a society that cares for one another well, can work together to solve problems, and prioritizes the well-being of all. There is enough soil, water, and oxygen for the whole system to thrive.

But for that to happen, we also need to pull the weeds. Taking time every day to keep up with the reality that old attitudes and habits grow back if unchecked. Being willing to get our hands and knees dirty as we renew spaces that have been left overgrown for way too long. Knowing that we can each make a difference that allows goodness to grow in both our hearts and in the world.

It is possible to change the world. I’m consulting with organizations and walking alongside leaders who are doing the strategic work of leading change to meet this historical moment. It is a joy to see their creativity and vision at play. To watch their communities serve and engage with their neighbors in life-giving and life-transforming ways. I have hope. Working together, we can make space for new things to bloom.