As Americans continue to condense into urban centers our ability to stay connected to the land that sustains us has become more fragile. Our disconnection will continue to have dire consequences unless we intentionally sow a creative relationship with the land and the people that work it. One way to connect urbanites with farming concerns is with the observance/celebration of Michaelmas on September 29. (for the record, Judson will observe Michaelmas Oct. 5th)
Never heard of Michaelmas? Neither had I until I read the recipe for Struan in Peter Reinhart’s Brother Juniper’s Bread Book: Slow Rise and Method as Metaphor. Struan is bread, made with harvested grains, the ancient Celts baked for Michaelmas. The day was an ancient locavore feast. The more I researched Michaelmas the more I realized this largely forgotten holy day could be the day for urban churches to connect with the land.
-What if on the weekend before Michaelmas churches offered locally harvested/sourced meals?
-What if churches imagined Michaelmas as the day to lift up compassionate and sustainable agriculture practices as part of its mission?
-What if churches offered Michaelmas as the holy day for urban populations to reconnect with the land and rhythms of life our ancestors intuitively knew?
Like most, if not all, religious holy days, Michaelmas, originated as an agricultural observation. The ancients Celts celebrated the last harvest after the equinox with bread, poems, songs, dancing, and feasting. To the protector of the harvest, Saint Michael the Archangel, they offered prayers and incantations.
Michaelmas could become the urbanite-locavore “holy day.” By the time the fourth Thursday in November rolls around our tomato vines have shriveled and apples have dropped. September 29th is the perfect time to enjoy the peak bounty of the harvest season.
By observing the day we can both reconnect with the land and deepen the relationships with the communities we will need in order to flourish. Environmental author and activist Bill McKibben has stated the best thing we can to do adapt in a changed climate is to forge deep relationships in small communities (like churches). We cannot afford anymore too-big-to-fail institutions, we need communities so small and deep they succeed.
This week deepen your relationships by going to your local farmer’s market and filling up your basket. Then invite over friends, family, neighbors and soon-to-be friends over for a local feast. Bake a loaf of Struan (it makes killer toast for breakfast the following morning), write a blessing, place some Michaelmas daisies (or any asters, or any local flowers) on your table, say thanks to those who nurtured the land, and have a joyous local Michaelmas meal.
Traditional blessing, translate by Alexander Carmichael
Each meal beneath my roof
They will all be mixed together,
In name of God the Son,
Who gave them growth.
Milk, and eggs, and butter,
The good produce of our own flock,
There shall be no dearth in our land,
Nor in our dwelling.
In name of Michael of my love,
Who bequeathed to us the power,
With the blessing of the Lamb,
And of His Mother.
Humble us at thy footstool,
Be thine own sanctuary around us,
Ward from us spectre, sprite, oppression,
And preserve us.