By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Ten years ago, sisters Ann Denny and Pat Hoerth began offering retreats in the areas of spirituality, sustainability and cosmology at their home, Turtle Rock Farm, near Billings, Oklahoma.
At the farm, guests would find chickens, guinea fowl, rabbits, alpaca, and pygmy goats. The venue included a hoop house, a strawbale hermitage, an apiary, and a giant prairie labyrinth- which all became the background of their popular annual Green Earth Day Celebrations and their annual Prairie Dinner and Concert in the fall.
Now, in 2018, the sisters say they are “lying fallow” regarding their retreats at Turtle Rock.
“We are deeply grateful for the work we have been privileged to engage in the last 10 years,” Hoerth said, “…for all the people we have spent time with–walking the prairie, building composting bins, raised beds, bee hives, cooking, meditating, making the cosmic walk, feeding the animals, gathering eggs, exploring the creek, watching the sun disappear over the horizon, engaging with children and adults alike as they paid close attention to life in the natural world.”
While Ann and her husband Frank are keeping an eye on Turtle Rock, Pat, a spiritual director and environmental educator, will be leading a new program at what she calls Turtle Rock Farm “In Town.”
The CommonWealth Urban Farms community, located at 1000 NW 32nd St in the Central Park neighborhood of Oklahoma City is Pat’s new “In Town” home.
The program she will lead during 2018 is called “Hands in the Soil: Clergy at CommonWealth – Clergy Renewal Through Environmental Awareness.”
“As a Deaconess in the United Methodist Church in Oklahoma,…I thought time with and for clergy in the garden could help us find ways to do the critical work I see faith communities stepping up to do,” Hoerth said.
The “Hands in the Soil” program will be held on the first Friday of each month, beginning March 2 and ending November 3.
According to Hoerth, the program will expose clergy to “healing and renewal through monthly time with their hands in the soil, while experiencing life in a garden.”
“Over the nine-month program, participants will join with this community in the ancient cycle of sowing seed and reaping the harvest, of entering the sacred partnership between earth and humanity whereby we are all sustained and nourished.”
Each month a group of 6 – 8 clergy will attend a day-long program in which they spend mornings working on the urban farm. Following lunch, the group will discuss their spiritual and emotional experiences of working in nature.
“CommonWealth Urban Farm is well-situated to provide clergy of all faith traditions the chance to spend replenishing time with their hands in the soil, learn about our food system and growing food, spend time together working, breaking bread and reflecting on why and how faith communities can lead the way in caring with our planet home,” Hoerth added.
Deadline for registration is Feb. 1. The program is underwritten by Green Connections. A fee of $225 for the nine-month program (covers food, utilities, and equipment costs) is due at the time of registration. CEUs are available.