Tim DeChant over at Per Square Mile offers a provocative post on how the presence (and absence) of trees in urban settings reveals the wealth of the neighborhood. He contends that wealthier communities tend to have more green space than do the poorer communities. In a follow up post, he offers several images from space to support this idea in which he compares wealthier and poorer communities in the same city with each other. The absence of flourishing trees in the poorer communities is quite apparent.
What I am left wondering then is a handful of questions around urban mission:
* How might this reality of treed or treeless space impact the scope of urban missions?
* Is cultivating green spaces and planting trees part of the church’s calling in these poorer communities?
* How do we encourage conversations within our communities about the relationship between economic poverty and the lack of green spaces?
If Christian mission is to be holistic and comprehensive in its embodiment of the gospel (reconciliation of all things in Christ – Colossians 1:15-20), perhaps our engagement with communities entangled in poverty would benefit from more deliberate attention to cultivating flourishing green spaces. If trees are now seen as a luxury by cities, as De Chant suggests, planting trees and cultivating green space in urban communities has the potential to serve as a prophetic critique and profound counter-cultural proclamation of the gospel: the lavishness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ includes a desire that all people and all communities would be blessed with thriving, flourishing creational life. Green space is not a luxury reserved for the wealthy, but a creational gift designed to benefit all of us.
I am thankful to be part of a church community that is involved in an urban community garden. The Hillstreet Garden is a step in the right direction. Reading De Chant’s article, I am left wondering what an even more robust, city-wide vision for churches cultivating green spaces could look like.
If you have examples of Christian communities that have an emphasis on cultivating urban green spaces as part of their mission, I would love to hear about them. Feel free to share your stories or examples in the comments below.