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    Orchards as Theaters of Grace

    Joseph Sittler, a Lutheran theologian, wrote that nature was a theater of grace, and encountering it in the proper way was necessary for the sanity of the mind, the preservation health of the body, the uplift of the spirit.

    We agree. We see our orchards as more than food-production sites (as essential as that is), but also as neighborhood theaters, patches of Eden, where the dangers of the world are still present and swirling about but are kept at bay and good things happen.

    We see neighborhood orchards are theaters of refuge, camaraderie, discovery and goodness for those who enter, and a hint of delight for those who peek in while passing by. They provide a stage and arena for some of the most intimate and life-giving encounters. They are places to meet others in quiet and peace, places to sit and rest, places to play, places to encounter nature – especially in the city – where it thrives in deep and welcome company with humanity.

    Two wonderful BOP events happened over the past seven days that remind us of this. We were honored to help dedicate an historic orchard at the Homewood Museum at Johns Hopkins University, one of the more-than-100 orchards that graced Baltimore City 140 years ago. This orchard – with its interpretive sign – helps mark the role of orchards both in the history of JHU and Baltimore.

    And with the help of 20 volunteers from the energetic and committed Repair the World Jewish service learning corps, we cleaned up and repaired an unkempt orchard, on the way to replanting it with fruit-bearing trees that will feed thousands of people for decades to come.

    We are heading into the closing weeks of the harvest season, readying for the fall planting, and continue to be awed and amazed at the gifts of urban orchards.

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