A weekend of fellowship and fun. A day of hard but rewarding work on a farm. Worship in a barn, surrounded by farm animals. All these were part of a two-day venture as a group of 18 volunteers from Bethel United Church of Christ in Elmhurst traveled to Clinton, IL, on an Adults in Mission (AIM) trip on October 20th and 21st to experience church in a new way at Jubilee Farms United Church of Christ (UCC.) Jubilee Farms was started by Rev. Cyndy Ash in 2014 and earlier this year became a congregation of the UCC. Its mission, from the beginning, has been to provide the community, both those with financial means and those without, with locally grown produce, farmed sustainably without pesticides or synthetic fertilizer, and to serve as a gathering place for the wider church community for worship, mission, education and community building. "In a nutshell," says Ash, "the vision of Jubilee Farms is to be a church without walls which lives out its mission every day in a very real, tangible way."
The Bethel group enjoyed an evening of fellowship on Friday before learning about food justice and then working at Jubilee Farms on Saturday. They picked peppers, okra, turnips and carrots. They learned how to separate garlic for planting and tore down a "hoop house" of 200 tomato plants which will become compost for next year's plantings. They also picked and brought home boxes of tomatoes which were shared with the Bethel congregation and delivered to a local food pantry to give to members of the community.
Following a full day of work, the AIM members participated in a worship service, held in the barn, alongside a number of farm animals--four alpacas, two sheep and thirty-some laying hens. The alpacas and sheep are sheared every spring; the fiber is sent to a mill where it is spun into yarn and then sold locally. Fresh eggs are sold locally as well. Rev. Ash led the worship service and two area musicians led the group in song, celebrating with the AIM members, in the words of Kim Wietzorek, one of the volunteers and chair of Bethel's Human Concerns committee, "the opportunity to be God's stewards of the land and help support the community by providing good, wholesome food to our neighbors in need."