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Community garden is one way San Francisco Seminary’s community honors ‘the web of life’

The people that make up San Francisco Theological Seminary have found a way to stay connected to God’s creation via a community garden begun some 15 years ago.

A home in season to vegetables, other plants, and a compost pile, the organic garden is just one of the ways the seminary, which has its own Green Initiative, lives into its commitment to the environment.

“It is ecclesiastical suicide to send students into the world without understanding the world we live in, and climate change is so significant a factor in today’s world,” the Rev. Charles Marks, SFTS chaplain, said on the seminary website. “Respect for creation should be embedded in all our preparation for ministry, no matter what kind of ministry, and we needed to think about how the Seminary can take that responsibility.”

Many of the ecological projects done by San Francisco Seminary fall under the auspices of its environmental ethics classes. The garden was birthed from one of those courses. Using a theory-practice model of education, seminarians get hands-on instruction in caring for the earth. Among the other projects developed was one to install solar panels on a historic house on campus.

“The projects help everyone learn a new competency, something positive to heal the fragile ecology,” said Dr. Carol Robb, Margaret Dollar Professor of Christian Social Ethics. “By learning how to do something positive, we find a path beyond an otherwise overwhelming sense that humankind is destroying the web of life.”

Since the community garden’s creation, faculty, staff, spouses, and others have joined in its upkeep, and all share the space together. According to the seminary’s website, “We garden the whole garden together. Instead of dividing up the garden into individual plots, we think and talk together informally about how the space should be used so everyone gets to harvest what they want.” The cooperative effort even includes communal gardening tools.

“We have the heritage of having our seminary in this beautiful natural environment on the West Coast, in biking and walking distance to Mount Tamalpais,” Robb said. “For seminary students who are concerned about the environment, SFTS is ideal.”

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