It was a sunny crisp Sunday morning, and Mission Farm Road was alive with celebration of new ministry for Church of Our Saviour at Mission Farm in Killington and for St. Thomas and Grace in Brandon. Sept. 20 was the first in person gathering and service at Mission Farm since the pandemic shut down in-person worship in March.
This is not the setting in which the Rev. Lisa Ransom and the Rev. Rachel Field thought their new ministry at Mission Farm would begin. Mission Farm is the 180-acre homestead in Killington given to the Diocese of Vermont in 1895 by Elizabeth Wood Clement. The celebration service was in front of the church, as attendees sat in chairs on the lawn and in the road (which was closed to traffic for the event). Due to Covid precautions everyone wore face masks and maintained a safe social distance.
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Shannon MacVean-Brown, the Episcopal bishop of Vermont, presided over the service of blessing for the land at Mission Farm and the new ministry of the new priests. Ransom as vicar, and Field as a part-time farmer priest. Field combines this with a priest-in-partnership at St. Thomas and Grace, Brandon. The celebration included a blessing for her new ministry in Brandon.
For Bishop MacVean-Brown, the new energy at Mission Farm holds promise as a model for collaborative ministry in other parts of the diocese. She said, “The Holy Spirit’s fingerprints are all over this envisioning, and the wisdom of moving slowly and seeing what the land is asking to unfold is a great place to start. This feels like a wonderfully agile place to combine what is already in place with what might begin to emerge.”
Ransom, a priest of the diocese for more than two decades, now spends a third of her time as executive director of Mission Farm and another third as vicar of Church of Our Saviour, Killington, the small historic stone church located on the property. She also runs a small family farm nearby and is co-owner of Grow Compost, a company that
sells compost and other “organic soil blends.”
Given their experience, it is not surprising that Ransom and Field aim to make Mission Farm a working farm once again. They said, they spend most of their time together praying, planning, and writing grants to fund their vision of growing food for people in need and teaching people to grow their own food.
“In rural communities with recreation-based economies, the pandemic has devastated our ability to access adequate food,” said Ransom.
“We’re planning demonstration gardens for teaching that will also provide food. We want to help people see how it’s possible to grow food on a porch, on a suburban quarter acre, in a community garden plot—anywhere people have access to outdoor space,”
She went on to say, “One of my huge joys, would be for someone to engage in a program here, feel a sacred connection to the land, and say ‘I can do that where I am’.”
The duo also envisions a CSA (community supported agriculture) program, in which people from the community and beyond could buy a share of Mission Farm’s harvest for themselves or to donate to people in need of food. Alongside their new vision for a working farm, Ransom and Field have considered how Mission Farm’s existing ministries, including a bakery, hiking trails and guest house, might change after the pandemic.
“A lot of people know Mission Farm because they have stayed here in the guest house,” Field said. “We want people to have that feeling of being welcomed, to feel a connection when they come here.”
That sense of welcome, together with what Ransom called “sustainable earth spirituality,” will be evident in the farm’s new programs, designed to respond to the twin pandemics of Covid-19 and systemic racism.
“The farm provides ample outdoor space to distance socially for “people for whom touch and smell and sound is important to their prayer life,” she said.
Anti-racism training will be central to the project, especially through work with the Abenaki Nation, on whose ancestral land the farm stands.
Field said, the pandemic means that “how we meet God is changing.” She went on to say, “We’re thinking about agriculture and building community, how we meet god and how we pray.”
Even though outdoor services are just beginning, people who want to experience the farm’s peaceful setting online are invited to join a Zoom meditation at MissionFarmVt.org on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:30 a.m.
“You are invited to come alongside others, the community of life at Mission Farm, and the Spirit through Zoom as we meditate together – opening ourselves to whatever the new day offers,” said Ransom.