We Believe With Our Bodies
On Saturday, September 16, 2023, I attended a community weed pull organized by the city of Delta. For a few hours about a dozen of us pulled invasive English Ivy from the trees and undergrowth of Ladner Harbour Park.
Photo Above: Wild Church Communion at Boundary Bay Dyke
I vigorously rock my body, seated and bent under a small opening in the brush, trying to wrench a three-metre ivy vine from the dry compacted ground. It loosens. I grunt, and my body lurches backward. A woman weeding nearby asks, “What do you do for a living?” I explain that I do several things and choose to lead with the fact that I work as a gardener part-time. “If you do this during the week, what made you want to come out and do this on the weekend?” I explain how I’m a part of a spiritual non-profit (another one of my jobs) that runs something called Wild Church. “We meet once a month at different places in the Boundary Bay Watershed, so we can get to know our more-than-human neighbours and learn to love them well,” I say. I mention how the previous Sunday we met here in the park and that my showing up to weed is a concrete way I can care for and get to know this place. She doesn’t say anything else, but I keep pondering her question. Why am I here?
We Believe With Our Bodies.
Estuary Church, the faith community I co-pastor, has a Belief document that states:
Anabaptists understand faith and action to be inseparable. We believe with our bodies, seeking to live into God’s story and enflesh the teachings of Jesus through peacemaking, nonviolence, the pursuit of reconciliation, living simply, caring for creation, sharing power, caring for one another, and embracing diversity.
I prove that I believe God loves the world, through my body. Simply giving mental ascent to a theological statement, doesn’t mean that I believe it. Scripture testifies that, if we are able, our beliefs are demonstrated through embodied action. (Matt 7:15-20, 1 John 2:3, James 2:26).
This is My Body, Given For You
As I cram my body into tighter places in the thicket along the main walking trail, I am reminded of how intimate weeding can be. My arms brush up against fallen sticks, thick cottonwood trunks, and holly saplings. Burdock burrs and blackberry thorns adorn my clothes, and the forest floor absorbs my sweat – a reciprocal shedding.
As I weed, I think of Estuary Church’s Wild Church communion litany and how as a symbol of our reconciliation with God, one another, and all creation, we toss the first piece of bread into the forest. In recognition of the ways the body of the earth is broken, we pour out the cup representing Christ’s blood on the soil of the particular place we are worshiping.
One of the ethos statements of Estuary Church claims that “The Church is the body of Christ.” My forearms, anointed with soil, strain as I pull on several vines. This is my body given for you. A mosquito lands on my arm just as the cluster of vines I’ve been trying to dislodge, begins to give. I allow the mosquito to bite, remove the vines, and brush it away perhaps to become a dragonfly’s snack or brown bat’s dinner later that night. This is my blood, shed for you.
If we believe with our bodies, I wonder what beliefs our bodies declare during the week.
If we believe with our bodies, I wonder what beliefs our bodies declared this week. Perhaps you stood with queer folks and allies resisting the messaging of anti-SOGI protestors, your body declaring, “I believe trans children are sacred.” Maybe you quietly nursed your infant child at home, your body declaring, “I believe whoever welcomes a child welcomes Jesus.” I wonder if you prepared meals for the hungry, your body declaring, “I believe we love Christ when we love the poor.”
What does your body believe?
The Wild Church Eucharistic Prayer is available through Salal + Cedar – a community of support and action to help Christians live out their vocation for environmental justice. I’m also grateful for pastor and author Melissa Florer-Bixler whose work has helped me appreciate the embodied nature of belief.