Bean Seeds

Mike Walker, a theologian of disability at the University of Toronto and a member of the Student Christian Movement of Canada, writes about our Easter retreat:

I appreciated several things about the retreat, especially the in-depth conversations, our day-long focus on non-violence, and our bean plants, which we received at the end of the day as gifts from one of our presenters.

On Saturday, April 22nd, 2017, I was one of about twenty participants in a day-long Easter season retreat organized by Faith Connections, Student Christian Movement of Canada, and the Christian Peacemaker Teams. The retreat took place at the University of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto; our primary facilitators were Father Bob Holmes, a member of the Congregation of St. Basil, and Peter Haresnape, National Coordinator of SCM Canada; both facilitators also represented CPT.

I enjoyed Father Bob’s teaching style because it was gentle and conversational. Bob used a centring exercise to enjoin us to recognize the speed of the earth spinning; he also probed the meaning of resurrection-life for Jesus’ friends in the present day by talking about his experiences at an anti-fracking protest in New Brunswick in 2013, and by carefully defining jubilee, “the year of the LORD’s favour,” in terms of other social justice issues. As he engaged us in these activities, Bob encouraged us to think, to feel, and to ask questions, and allowed us to teach him.

Moreover, both Bob and Peter focused their part of the retreat on non-violence. I particularly appreciated the two “spectrum exercises” that Peter led during the day, in terms of getting us to think through our relationships to violence in the New Testament. These exercises showed me that I and the other participants exist within a range of possibility, relative to the use of violence. Bob also helped us to roleplay and think our way through other responses to violence; our role-playing showed me the importance of creativity when encountering anger!

Lastly, I found the planting of our bean seeds both relaxing and informative. Robin, our facilitator, told us (among other things!) that beans are a source of nitrogen for the soil, and encouraged us strongly to feel our connection to the earth by getting the potting soil on our hands. I felt sort of like I was a child again, and it gives me great encouragement to see the bean sprouting slowly on my kitchen table. I feel that all of these experiences bear further reflection, and can help me, and us, to grow towards a life of peace and joy.

— Mike Walker is a theologian of disability at the University of Toronto and a member of the Student Christian Movement of Canada; he's the primary author of SCM's Disability, Faith, and Justice Devotional (2016). When he's not writing his dissertation on a theology of disability, he loves to read and write on other topics, listen to music, exercise, and hang out with friends.