Growing Connections Recap: The Rev. Dr. Darriel Harris

Plainsong Farm has always been committed to food justice, and in the upcoming year we are making changes to strengthen that commitment. Recently, we announced to the public that we are ending our long-running CSA program to focus on growing for partner organizations to address food insecurity in Kent County, Michigan. While it is bittersweet to be wrapping up this program that has connected us to so many people, we are excited to devote even more of our resources to food equity. It is in this spirit of possibility that we launched our Growing Connections online lunch series with our first speaker, the Rev. Dr. Darriel Harris. We hope that everyone connected to Plainsong (locally or globally) can hear our partners in the world of food equity talk about what they do and inspire us to act in our own contexts. 

Dr. Harris is a pastor in Baltimore and a longtime friend of Plainsong Farm. Dr. Harris was a fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, holds a doctorate in how faith intersects with health communications, and has traveled to South Sudan as a health missionary in partnership with the Episcopal Church. In addition to all this, he works with the Strength to Love 2 Farm, a project of the church he pastors that aims to address food apartheid in the region. 

Dr. Harris ties his work in food equity and health to the Gospel. During his time with us, he reflected on John 10:10, where the Pharisees question how and why Jesus healed a blind man. Their instinct is to blame the man’s blindness on either his wrongdoing or his parents’ wrongdoings, and they ask Jesus which one is the case.  Dr. Harris shared his thoughts on the passage: 

“The Pharisees were neither born blind, nor were they healed of their blindness, but they feel that their perspective and their words and their experience give them some sort of authority over the matter - such that their words count more than the words of the person who was actually born blind.” 

For Dr. Harris, Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ questioning, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” is a call for the 21st century church to resemble Christ in standing with the marginalized. 

One central way to follow that call is through food access and increased health resources. Rev. Dr. Harris displayed several maps of Baltimore from different sources that compared life expectancy, race, and the food environment (how far the nearest grocery store is, how many people have transit to get to one, etc.). When it comes to the overlap between these three areas, there is a story of racism, food apartheid, disparity in access to healthy products, and subsequent health outcomes, a story most major cities tell, according to Rev. Dr. Harris. 

If these issues of food access exist in Baltimore, Grand Rapids, and every other major metropolitan area in the United States, then so do opportunities to seek justice and serve Jesus. Rev. Dr. Harris reflected on the centrality of spending time in Scripture and reading theology for the Christian church’s advancement as tools for re-examining existing structures and reimagining more equitable futures. Whether harvesting fresh produce to donate or incorporating health tips and resources into a church’s weekly announcements, there are many ways to follow Christ and seek more abundant lives for all.

The entire conversation is available to view on Plainsong’s YouTube page. The next conversation in our Growing Connections series, with AJ Fossel of Grand Rapids’ Community Food Club, will take place December 12/13 at 12:30 P.M. EST on our Facebook.