News & Updates

I want to talk to you about the hope in the world today. One topic flooded email, social media and conversation this past weekend, elevating uncertainty and anxiety. And yet, there is this amazing concurrent sense of resiliency and transformation:

Conferences that were once prohibitively expensive and only available to a few are becoming free or affordable webinars available to everyone. Retail stores are voluntarily shutting their doors for the good of all, hospitality venues are extending generosity in the form of cancellation policies, and municipalities are asking restaurants and bars to provide take-out or delivery options instead of dining in. People are organizing grassroots resource-sharing to get through this scary time.

It seems almost like the Sign of Jonah: Jonah is the only biblical prophet who was believed, and as people changed their ways they were spared the predicted devastation. This might be embarrassing to the prophet who could be accused of overstating the threat, but it was (and is) the best available outcome for everyone.

Unfortunately, the sign is not complete. The most vulnerable (hungry, housing insecure, imprisoned, waiting for eviction) are not seeing a cessation of pressure, just as the sustainability movement has too

We need to respond in a similarly complex and complete way to climate change. Many of the coronavirus precautions are, coincidentally, easing the burden of global warming, but there are some substantial differences between these threats. There are plenty of useful articles on the topic that may spark in you a curiosity about how we can all advocate for temporary climate- and community- positive changes to be made permanent in your own workplaces and neighborhoods. Because, as we now know even more concretely, our actions and our connection with each other has incredible power.

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When we were last together on retreat in February, we spent some time slipping deep into this well-known poem by Wendell Berry. In this moment of coronavirus, election, fear, it seems particularly poignant to recollect that the real meaning and value of this age is not in the stock market. In fact, the two systems of value - things that bring us health and hope versus things that bring us wealth and worry - work against each other. We hope these words help you find deep peace and inner freedom in the midst of current events:

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,

vacation with pay. Want more

of everything ready-made. Be afraid

to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.

Not even your future will be a mystery

any more. Your mind will be punched in a card

and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something

they will call you. When they want you

to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something

that won’t compute. Love the Lord.

Love the world. Work for nothing.

Take all that you have and be poor.

Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace

the flag. Hope to live in that free

republic for which it stands.

Give your approval to all you cannot

understand. Praise ignorance, for what man

has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.

Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.

Say that your main crop is the forest

that you did not plant,

that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested

when they have rotted into the mold.

Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus

that will build under the trees

every thousand years.

Listen to carrion — put your ear

close, and hear the faint chattering

of the songs that are to come.

Expect the end of the world. Laugh.

Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful

though you have considered all the facts.

So long as women do not go cheap

for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy

a woman satisfied to bear a child?

Will this disturb the sleep

of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.

Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head

in her lap. Swear allegiance

to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos

can predict the motions of your mind,

lose it. Leave it as a sign

to mark the false trail, the way

you didn’t go. Be like the fox

who makes more tracks than necessary,

some in the wrong direction.

Practice resurrection.


“Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from The Country of Marriage, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. 1973. Also published by Counterpoint Press in The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1999; The Mad Farmer Poems, 2008; New Collected Poems, 2012.

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As untrusting as I am of March weather, in my part of the Midwest we are seeing what looks like May weather. I'm scratching my head a little over the planting plan - it seems like the peas, beets, and carrots could go in any time, since the ground is thawed and the snowdrops are blooming. Perhaps because I lived in the south for a few years, it doesn't seem so impossible to me that we could shift the growing season up two months.

At the same time, the water level is high in the Great Lakes and unseasonable wind storms are raising waves over twenty feet high that pound into breakwalls, eroding the shore, taking back land, as if telling us that we have not been good stewards. These nearby stories are small in comparison with the droughts, fires, and other catastrophes abroad. If there is still time to slow or stop climate change, it is closing fast.

We are still living with and asking the same questions I posed to you in February: Particularly, how shall we celebrate with you all the time we have left? And how can we support you in this moment of climate catastrophe? We want to be sure you didn't miss our announcement to join us in June, and to know that the world desperately needs you and the actions you are taking.

You can support us in our upcoming trial by making a donation, joining us in Northeastern Minnesota, or offering housing, food, and volunteer support. The schedule of events is as follows, more details to come!

Panel Discussion with the Valve Turners

6:30 - 9:00 pm Friday, May 30th, 2020

Peace Church, Duluth, MN

Welcome Table with the Valve Turners

5:00 pm - 7:00 pm Monday, June 1st, 2020

TBD Grand Rapids, MN

Evening Prayer & Song

8:00 - 9:00 pm Monday, June 1st, 2020

Camp Hiawatha, Deer River Township, MN

Trial Begins

8:30 am Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020

Itasca County Court House, Grand Rapids, MN

(court scheduled Tuesday through Friday, but may adjourn before then)

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