McDermott stressed that keeping the garden organic is important because “it means we are only taking out of the earth what it will naturally provide to us — and not adding any harmful chemicals or pesticides that, though they may produce ‘beautiful’ vegetables, are not good for human consumption or the long-term viability of the naturally occurring beneficial organisms in the soil.”
New Eden’s noble mission was part of what drew MacDonald to the congregation. A freelance journalist, author and ordained minister of the United Church of Christ, MacDonald describes the post he assumed in September as more of a calling than a livelihood.
“Doing ministry is a privilege,” he says. “It’s an honor to serve in a community that has as much vision and creativity as it has history.”
“The church created its environmental mission several years ago, recognizing that this is an important value that historically and intricately connects religion to some real life challenges,” said Goodhue. “Jeffrey has embraced and incorporated these values into his role as our spiritual leader.”
Bringing MacDonald to Newbury is the latest in a series of forward-looking steps for a 378-year-old congregation whose cutting-edge environmental mission has captured attention in the academic world.
Last summer Cybelle Shattuck, a doctoral student in natural resource policy and behavior at the University of Michigan, traveled to Newbury to observe the New Eden Community Gardens. She said the most successful gardens she has observed are the ones that where congregation members and people from outside the faith community work together.
“These have a dynamism that is often lacking in a garden managed solely for the church or synagogue,” she said. “In fact, the latter rarely last for more than two years because the few active gardeners in the congregation burn out.”