My son and and I enjoyed a great service at the Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church (“A2U2”) in Portland, Maine last Sunday (our first service there even though we’ve visited the church for other reasons many times). But despite how fabulous the sermon by Rev. Myke Johnson on laughter yoga, that was not our reason for attending!
A couple of years ago The Resilience Hub was engaged by A2U2 to help convene a participatory permaculture design process with their congregation. The 70s-era church sits on a seven-acre site a few miles from downtown Portland and really wanted to make the best use of their property while also really living into their mission to “walk lightly on the earth.”
Over several months, (along with their Environment Committee) we convened awareness-raising events like permaculture movie nights, field trips to permaculture sites and a custom “Intro to Permaculture Design Short Course.” Further to that we did site assessment and analysis. Meanwhile surveys, interviews and interactive display boards engaged even more members of the church. It turned out to be one of the more “participatory” initiatives ever carried out by the church and resulted in a Draft Concept sketch and a motivated set of teams researching feasibility and budgets for different design elements to take to an all-church vote.
Back to this past Sunday’s celebration… A2U2 recently completed their Capital Campaign, which had set a goal of raising $215,000 toward the implementation of the top-priority components of their permaculture plan (more on this later). They were overjoyed to report that pledges not only met, but fully exceeded, this goal. Now the real work begins!
I look forward to following their progress and collaborating whenever possible. Multi-stakeholder design (churches, schools, business campuses, etc.) is a very special category of the professional permaculture world – one that takes more time and energy than most residential or farm designs. But the results are critical: without good process (i.e. “social permaculture”), we jeopardize our ability to implement even the best permaculture design of physical spaces.
We will post more as this project unfolds!
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