The How To…I want to tell you the story of my journey through Lent this year (and last year too). Red-wriggler worms have played the staring role. It began in January 2015 or so when mother of young 2nd grader told me that her class was learning about vermicomposting.
From wikapedia: Vermicompost is the product or process of composting using various worms, usually red wigglers, white worms, and other earthworms to create a heterogeneous mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast.
Ah-ha. We could do that too in church! But – the problem was posed – the first twist in plot. We are a very urban church. We don’t have much outside space, and the outside space we have isn’t very secure and we have a problem already attracting rats. Rats. Gross. But the beautiful thing about vermicomposting (or worm composting as I’ve been calling it), is it all takes places in a neat plastic bin, and when done correctly doesn’t smell, doesn’t attract flies or other unwanted-creatures.
Twist in Plot #2: Where to get the worms? Solution: Worms, like most everything else can be bought on-line. The worms came in a green pouch and I ordered the starter pack materials including pumice and grit. I ordered more supplies this year.
I also ordered the green worm bin, which stacked in layers encourages the the worms to wriggler upward to find more food. The worm-bin can be re-used each year. It sits on a table, so just in case I don’t mix things properly, we won’t have a rodent-friend pay a visit.
Each week, I add about a 1/2 pound of scraps from the kitchen. These are things that I would otherwise throw away. These are things I consider trash.
These discarded bits include veggie scraps, fruit peels and cores, coffee grounds, crushed up egg shells, and the insides from tea bags. I learned that the worms eat the scraps faster when I make the bits smaller, so when I’m feeling ambitious, I first put them in the food processor. Other times, I put in the food in whole. When I do put the food in whole, I realize how much food that I buy I throw away. This week, I put in 2 forgotten potatoes, a moldy pear, and a bag of kale that went bad. This process of examining my food scraps each week is beginning to teach me to about meal planning and to become more intentional about what I buy. Slowly (I haven’t fully gotten the message yet), this worm bin is teaching me to be a better steward of what I have been given.
Then after about a week, the worms turn that which I would have thrown away — scraps and just food waste — into compost. This is the worm casings. The worm castings is essentially their poop. And it this worm-poop that provides the fertilizer (compost) for new life.
SO WHY are we composting for Lent??? What does this worm-composting have to do with Jesus Christ? Why or why or why oh why….?
I talk about it more here in my “Theology of Worm Composting,” but here is the shorter version:
- Worm-composting shows the process of how God takes the things that we would throw away and brings in beautiful new life. Or, as Pastor Roger would say how God takes us out of the “death-tending ways of the world” and offers us new life. This is the message of the whole Bible, and the message we especially honor during the Lenten Season.
- Worm-composting connects me deeply to the God’s good creation. Especially living in an urban environment, I give God thanks for the time I get to play hands-deep in the soil with these worms. It is hands deep in the soil, I get to feel and experience new life. And then I consider – where in the world is God breathing in new life? In what unexpected places should I look?
- Worm-composting is fun. Shouldn’t life be fun? Shouldn’t church be fun too?
And here is what we have done week by week:
First week of Lent:
We took the compost-worm casings – POOP – from last year’s bin and planted green onions and asparagus. We watered the pots and set them on the window in my office.
We also set up this year’s compost bin, adding in the right mixture of greens (veggie/ fruit scraps) and brown (pumice, grit and brown leaves). We added in the worms. We asked, where do we see new life growing? How does God bring about new life?
(SIDE NOTE: Last year, the bin lived on the deck outside of my house. (I continued to compost until about July when the worms got too hot and died. 😦 They like temps 40-80 degrees. Hey worms, me too! … But they left a lot of good compost for this year’s pile.)
We watered the plants that we planted the previous week. We marveled at how much new life – aka compost casing poop- the worms created in only one week.
In worship play, the time during the sermon when the ages 3-10 have their own worship activity, we played with the worm bin, adding 1/2 lb of veg/ fruit scraps and brown leaves. We talked about how it is important to have the right materials for the worm bin — not too much or too little of anything. We talked about how we too should build our faith on a strong foundation based on the story of the house built on rock from Matthew 7. We asked, what is the right foundation for faith in God? (Our answer was a combination of reading the Bible, going to church, and reflecting on our faith within the greater world.)
In gathering time, the time when the children/ youth and families ages baby to grade 12 meet before Sunday School, we had a worm-bin demonstration to start our 2nd and 3rd bins. We added in a bag of fruit/ veg and a bag of brown leaves. We also played with the worms.
We marveled at the new growth in just four weeks. We have wonderful new green onions and asparagus. We sampled the green onions grown from the plants. In Chinese culture, green onions have healing properties. We each hurt and suffer in different ways. How is God our healer? How is God calling us to be healers of others?
For 11 am worship play, we reviewed what we have done so far in light of the Holy Week story. We talked about how God revealed God-self to humanity in a little tiny baby, Jesus Christ. And then in growing up, going from being 0 to 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 to 5 to 6 to 7 to 8 to 9 to about 33 years old, God experienced what it was like to be human. Jesus started out small and grew into an adult all the time experiencing the joys and pains of being human. We talked about how our plants have grown in 6 weeks and how Jesus probably grew plants too. We talked about how Jesus ate meals probably often from plants like these.
We talked about the Maundy Thursday and how that was the last meal that Jesus ate with his friends. We ate a bit of green onion. And then, we pulled out the green onions and talked about Good Friday as a very sad day. We talked about how God gave God whole self for the world. We talked about how God knows our pain.
We also talked about the stillness of Holy Saturday about waiting for the hope of Easter.
It’s coming!!!!! We will yell Alleluia! and use the worm-bin compost story to tell the story Easter Resurrection. Then, like last year, we will plant new plants for my office and for each child to take home.
You are invited to visit my office and look at the worm-bin in action. I hope to continue it throughout the year. Perhaps it can be the starter pile for a NYAPC urban garden?
FUTURE NYAPC URBAN GARDEN PICTURE GOES HERE