Reflection from Chas Edens: Remembering my friend Jocelyn

Chas wrote a reflection for the Faith & Leadership publication, to remember and re-member Jocelyn Patterson, beloved and faithful garden member. As the journal describes the piece, “The lonely death of a member of his community prompts the director of a community garden to reconsider the project’s mission.” An excerpt is below — find the whole piece here.

“…Of the many characters that have animated this ministry, Jocelyn was one of the most consistent and colorful. She was a self-described hippie who adorned herself in tie-dye and turquoise jewelry, a Jewish woman from New Jersey who first settled in Cedar Grove in the ’70s to live in a commune after touring with the Grateful Dead.

Jocelyn’s death has complicated my understanding of who we are at Anathoth. The latest in a string of deaths, it has forced me to confront the fact that the story — our story — is not so neat and tidy as we’d like to think.

Our identity at Anathoth hinges on a narrative of life triumphing over death, peace in response to violence.

In part, this is because the ministry was born out of death. In 2004, Bill King, a white man married to an African-American woman, was murdered at a corner grocery store. Some speculated that the murder was racially motivated.

The community held a prayer vigil in response to King’s death, and out of this gesture came a vision to plant a garden where neighbors could heal divisions of race and class while working collaboratively to heal the earth.

And yet so heavily has our story relied on the linearity of life after death that it has been hard for me to make sense of the subsequent deaths the community has experienced during my tenure as Anathoth’s director.

As it relates to Jocelyn’s story…her death has helped me realize that the ministry of caring for creation and healing divisions between neighbors requires communion between the living and the dead.

The Apostles’ Creed speaks of a communion between the living and the dead, a communio sanctorum. But often, Christian leaders struggle to foster this communion, because modern life is so fragmented. When we are constantly on the move, we orient ourselves away from what has passed and toward what is new. What memory we do carry forward lacks grounding in ritual or place.

Communio sanctorum requires a more “placed” memory of those who have come before us. Like the stream’s current that shapes the stone in its bed over many seasons, a placed memory provides provides for us the steady, molding force of tradition. This is how we do things, because this is how those who have come before us taught us to live in this place. Our way of life together changes gradually, in accordance with our particular needs and nuances.

It is through this communio sanctorum that I believe Jocelyn is remembered at Anathoth. It happens when we form a circle around the potluck table on Saturday afternoons to accommodate those who need to sit. Or when we serve those who can’t make it through the potluck line on their own. Or when we bag produce instead of box it for those who need to use one hand to balance.

Or, on a broader scale, when we ensure through our HarvestShare program that for every one household who can afford a share of good food, there is another to whom it is given.

Through these acts of love and care, we remember how Jocelyn has changed the way we live together — and in doing so, we bring her back into communion with us.”

Read more here, about how Anathoth seeks to re-member everyone whose story is part of the garden’s story.

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