How We Can Be Optimistic Like Our Wheat At the beginning of this month, we - the Somewhere Else community - got together on Zoom for a service to celebrate Candlemas. This was a lovely intimate time together, reflecting over a Holy Day that is seen by some as the end of the Christmas period. Maybe, for us as a community of winter wheat growers, this time can seem to be the beginning of the end of winter - a seemingly long winter. And at the end of this winter, Candlemas reveals the inextinguishable flame of optimism that God promises us all. This light illuminates the darkest of skies and brings with it the source of new growth. At the same time as this, our wheat has entered a new stage of growth called the tillering phase which allows it to make the most of this light of hope...
What is Tillering?
Many of you may have noticed that your wheat has a few grass-like strands coming off it that look limp and struggling to be held up. Worry not, these are called tillers and are essential to winter wheat. They're all about spreading the otherwise narrow plant out, orientating it to the light. Come the end of winter, when the days are warm enough, these tillers will die and the wheat will shoot upwards and begin to flower.
So by undergoing this tillering process, the wheat makes the most of the light, making it somewhat of an optimist in the darkness of winter. In what ways are we feeling God's light of hope at the moment, and what can we be doing to make the most of it in our lives?
Top Tips to Help Your Wheat
Make the Most of the Light
A Reflection on a Poem: A Flame That Cannot Be Put Out
In the dark days:
under rain-heavy clouds,
among broken branches,
on sodden earth,
the snowdrops light their candles.
A flame that cannot be put out
by darkness or gales or doubt.
In the salt wind,
rooks buckle like broken umbrellas;
as the bare trees
heave a great sigh,
the snowdrops tremble.
But their flame cannot be put out
by darkness or gales or doubt.
Perfect, as though carved
in green-veined marble,
life pulsing through tissue
delicate as the eyelids
of a sleeping child,
curved like small fingers,
Their flame is steadfast:
it is full of hope and new beginnings.
Darkness of gales or doubt cannot put it out.
Copyright Jan Sutch Pickard from Sing but Keep on walking
Wildgoose publications ISBN 9781849526968
This beautiful poem came from Jan Sutch Pickard, a poet and storyteller from the Isle of Mull, and member of the Iona Community.
The link between the hope and light of Candlemas, and the strength and resilience of God's creation is highlighted eloquently.
Like the steadfast snowdrops brightening up the dark days of winter, our wheat also defeats the battering chill of the season. That is not to mean that it is easy! God gives us strength through hardship, shines our light through darkness; He doesn't promise an easy road. As Pickard writes, the bare trees 'heave a great sigh' and the 'snowdrops tremble', but neither darkness, gales or doubt can put out the flame that God has put in them.
Likewise, we can take hope and optimism from this, the promise that God gives us growth, light and new creation through hardship. Our roots strengthen in the wind and frost, and we come out of the winter with a burning flame that cannot be extinguished and is ready to share its warmth and light for the growth of others around us.
Let us pray: Father God, we thank you for the strength that you promise through your inextinguishable flame that provides us with hope, light and courage in the depths of winter. Lord God, we repent of the ways in which we have failed to steward your Earth. May we learn to take care of the biodiversity and environment we are blessed with.
Gracious God, we lift up to you those for whom the winter has felt too much. The homeless, the anxious, the survivors, let them feel in their hearts your grace and your promise of renewed hope.
Merciful Father, we pray that the growth that comes with the change of season is towards you and in your way, so that we can continue to live for you. Amen.
Our Wheat Thrives through Challenging Winter
It's a new year which has brought with it a new lockdown alongside some very cold weather and dark nights. More challenges come with this for physical and mental health as we wait for a vaccine in a time that can feel somewhat frustrating but also hopeful. For the 100 or so of us in this community growing wheat together, many similarities can be drawn between this feeling and our experience in watching our collective crop grow. Hope, however, can be drawn from what we can learn about the importance of a cold and dark winter in the process of growth...
The Importance of Winter for our Wheat Our wheat is a winter bread variety, which is sown usually in autumn and harvested in late spring, unlike the more common spring wheat sown in spring. This means it takes longer to grow as it has to 'over-winter' during which it holds tight and waits until the days get warmer and brighter. This has its benefits, and the harder the winter frost, the better chance the wheat in farmers' fields has of producing a greater yield. This is because the wheat establishes itself in the lead up to winter building resistance to the frost that comes and kills off diseases, pests and weeds that would otherwise outcompete it. Although it may seem brutal, patience and trust through this winter is essential for our wheat (and ourselves!). The harder the frost - the more the wheat stands strong through it - the more it resists and becomes stronger against pests and diseases. Sounds almost biblical, doesn't it?!
The Spiritual Importance of Waiting for Growth
"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" Matthew 13:3-9 NIV
This is a profound message in Isaiah, a promise to those who feel tired, weak, weary: if you wait on and hope in the Lord, He will renew your strength. As we have said, this is true for our wheat. What may seem like a bad time to grow such a delicate, grass-looking plant, 'waiting' through winter actually provides it with more strength and resilience for its quick growth-spurt to come in the spring, protecting it from pests and diseases that would otherwise have reduced its fruitfulness if it had not 'waited'.
As this passage from Isaiah proves, the same can be said for us in this particularly harsh winter. Us waiting and being faithful in the Lord in this anxious time of lockdown will lead to a renewing of our strength. Not just in protecting the NHS and improving the effectiveness of the vaccine roll-out; but this can be an opportunity for us to all to slow down and spend time in prayer with God, allowing him to build our strength in adversity so we can come back stronger and bear more of his fruit when things eventually get back to normal.
Let us pray:
Father God, we come before you
in this time of uncertainty,
when it seems like there is little room for growth and flourishing.
Grant us your patience
to wait through this period
for the strength and glory you promise us.
Loving God, we thank you
for your everlasting presence,
your light in the darkness
that guides and sustains us through these times.
May this line continue to shine on
ourselves and those around us.
Gracious God, as we wait on your Holy Spirit,
we ask that it protects us from the pests
and diseases of the enemy.
May you break the chains of illness,
anxiety and sin
So we may emerge in the spring with new
life and growth in Jesus name.
Pictures from around the Community
Welcome to Grain Gather Grow! It's not too late to order seeds by emailing us...! If you are receiving this newsletter, you are one of the ~80 (and counting!) people and organisations currently taking part in our new project in which we aim to grow wheat together as a community as we - quite literally - share in one body of bread, following the process from grain to loaf.
At the time of writing, 75 seed packets have been sent out by post. They have reached way beyond the boundaries of our church Circuit to every corner of the Liverpool City Region, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, the Midlands and even Belgium!
Two thirds of you have not attended Somewhere Else before, and we are delighted to have you on board. We hope you enjoy being a part of our community as we come together virtually during these difficult times of social distancing. Fellowship is an important aspect of Christian faith and we hope to embody that in this ecumenical project!
The Story of our Wheat
Our wheat was sourced very randomly back in September from a local farm owned by a friend of a friend in Ince Blundell that had just happened to sow 300 hectares of the seed a week before. The farmer very generously donated half a potato sack of the grain from his silo for us to sow, and was compensated with a loaf of our very own bread baked at our first virtual breadmaking session. Thus beginning the cycle we wish to complete in making our own locally sourced bread next summer!
Top Tips to Look After Your Wheat Early On
The Parable of the Sower and our Community
"A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up,the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among the thorns, which grew up and choked the plant. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop - a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." Matthew 13:3-9 NIV
The Parable of the Sower is a well-used parable in sermons. The soil is intended to be a metaphor for our hearts as humans and followers of Christ. If our hearts are 'good soil', then we will receive the word from Christ, sending down strong roots into our hearts and spirits, feeling the full effect of its nourishment to produce magnificent fruits.
We have an opportunity now, as a community, to live out this metaphor. By nurturing our soil (quite literally) to grow wheat, spending time reaching out to our communities, being mindful of our environment, and 'praying by doing', we are opening our hearts to His love in our lives and in our community.
Throughout this project, we hope to remove from our soil the rocks of anxiety and stress we are collectively experiencing in life at the moment. We will uproot any thorns or weeds that might threaten to out-compete the growth of the fruits God has given us. We will place our seed where it will receive the most of the available light. We will share the fruits we are blessed with, with one another in bread when we can finally meet again.
Let us pray:
Father God, we thank you
for the seeds you sow in our lives,
day after day, seen and unseen.
We pray that each will land on good soil.
Merciful God, we invite you in
to till our soil,
so that it is strong to deal with
every change of season,
always supporting new growth.
Gracious God, we ask for forgiveness
for the times that we have allowed our soil
to grow hard to the seeds,
and given too much room for the birds
to take them away.
May we know that we can always turn to you.
Lord, we pray for those in need,
whose rocks in their soil appear too much
of a burden to lift.
May they be comforted in knowing that
you will do all the heavy lifting.
Pictures from around the Community