Eric Jacobsen writes,

“A second way that a church might directly impact a neighborhood has to do with the redemption of space. Wendell Berry develops this wonderful notion of local culture through observing an old rusted out bucket nailed to a tree. This bucket collects leaves and what not over the years and then over time the fibers break down and these things, in the bucket turn into soil that can return to the earth and allow things to grow. Berry sees in this bucket an analogy for how human community is supposed to develop:

A human community, too, must collect leaves and stories, and turn them to account. It must build soil, and build that memory of itself—in lore and story and song—that will be its culture. These two kinds of accumulation, of local soil and local culture, are intimately related.

“Berry claims that in order to do this kind of work, a community must exert a kind of centripetal force on its residents. It must draw residents toward the center of community life, and it must encourage the next generation to return and make their contribution to the local culture.

“The schools have failed, according to Berry, to inculcate love for and knowledge of the local culture and instead are focusing training children toward the future—toward the development of a career. This oversight is not only (literally) unsettling for our children; it is also a kind of irresponsible stewardship of the local environment.

“I think that the church in the neighborhood could exert this kind of centripetal force on a neighborhood if it was cognizant of the value of this role. In order to do this, a church would have to have a pretty strong sense of its physical connection to its neighborhood. This perspective would have been taken for granted when there was a stronger sense of church parish in the community.” (Italics mine)

From “Redeeming Civic Life in the Commons,” Eric O. Jacobsen. The City, Winter, 2009.

See also “parish…