"Creating", with The Soil and the Seed Project

“Creating”, with The Soil and the Seed Project

Seth Crissman Greg Yoder Melody Zimmerman Harrigan McMahon Bowman

~ing podcast Season 2 Episode 10
Full Episode Transcript

Season 2 Episode 10: “Creating”, with The Soil and the Seed Project was released on March 15, 2022. The audio recording is available on all major podcasting platforms. More information is available here.

Episode Description:

We’re continuing our journey through the season of Lent with a conversation with four individuals who have helped to create The Soil and the Seed Project. This unique initiative was launched during Advent season in 2021, to create music, art, and “Little Liturgies” that follow the liturgical year to help us welcome the seed of the Good News together as it takes root in our lives. It is a gift to the church, given freely to any individual or community who wants it (not sold). ~ing Podcast producer Ben Wideman is joined by and Seth Crissman, Harrigan McMahon Bowman, Greg Yoder, and Melody Zimmerman. We’ll hear more about who this project is for, how it came together, and what their hopes are for the future. 

Harrigan Bowman, Music Playing, Melody Zimmerman, Ben Wideman, Seth Crissman, Greg Yoder

Ben Wideman  00:00
Welcome to Season Two of ~ing Podcast, a production of MennoMedia’s Leader Magazine.  This week on ~ing Podcast we’re sitting down with four of the creators of The Soil and the Seed Project, an endeavor created during the pandemic in 2021, to nurture faith through music, art, and little liturgies. Our conversation begins now. Join us as we journey together.  Friends, Welcome to ~ing Podcast. I’m really excited today to be sitting down with a number of folks to talk about The Soil and the Seed Project. It’s timely, given that we are moving our way through the Lenten Season. This is a project of resources to help people navigate different liturgical seasons on the calendar. And this fits really well with the season that we currently are in as a global church. And I’m excited to have some of the creators of this project. Friends, why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourselves.

Melody Zimmerman  01:06
My name is Melody Zimmerman, and I am the lead writer for The Little Liturgy part of the project.

Seth Crissman  01:14
And I am Seth Crissman live in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I work a few different jobs. I work half time as a public elementary school special education teacher. But then my other biggest part of my work is with The Soil and the Seed Project, which I do half time, and my family… four kids, my wife and partner, Theresa Peachey Crissman. We live in Harrisonburg, and we love it.

Harrigan Bowman  01:40
I’m Harrigan Bowman. And I’m the visual artistic director on this project and also get to work with Melody as a writer as a supporting writer to the Little Liturgies.

Greg Yoder  01:51
I’m Greg Yoder, a music teacher. I do development work also for the private school where I teach. My wife and I have a small farm where we do a large garden and have goats. I’m a big supporter of The Soil and the Seed Project, very excited about what Seth is doing. And I’m doing a little bit of work to help him grow the project as big as it can be. Because I think it’s really special and has something has a really neat role to play and for families and communities and for the broader church.

Ben Wideman  02:36
There’s a really beautiful website for The Soil and the Seed Project. And from there, I can read that this is a project that nurtures faith through music, art, and Little Liturgies, for daily and weekly use in the home. That all sounds like a lot of wonderful things all rolled into one sentence. Seth, how did you how did you start this project? Where did the impetus come from to launch this endeavor?

Seth Crissman  03:01
I mean, the last several years, Theresa and I worked with a team of people to help bring folks together in communities, mostly folks who weren’t necessarily connected to the church, to create spaces for them to belong, particularly children and families. And so through something called Kid’s Club, and so we walked with about a dozen churches in the Shenandoah Valley as they got to know their neighbors and listened to them. While, they both gave and received love. It was beautiful work. And then COVID hit, you know, and so it’s like everything got kind of turned sideways. And not everything… some stuff was already sideways. And some stuff actually seemed like it…. Yeah. Regardless, so one of the conversations I kept having over and over again, was with pastors and with families, homes, households, who were saying, every… All the ways that I connected with the church up until now seem to just like, have gone out the window. And so like, such a huge chunk of the way that like faith formation happened, the rhythms of faith, gathering together, singing together, eating together, worshiping together, studying scripture together…. we couldn’t do it together anymore. And so, and so it didn’t it feel like in some ways, it caused some, some stressors, but in some ways, it just revealed that, you know, for a lot of folks… like that’s the place where the majority of their rhythms of faith were anchored, was inside the physical church building. And so, but honestly, it’s more it’s been more than that it was conversations with people who are saying, you know, I want to you know, have my kids grow up and you know, who God is and like walk with them in faith. But I don’t really know like quite what to do. Like, I know, I’m taking them to Sunday school, like we go to church together like I take them XY and Z but I just would like some other, like, tools to hold. And so we know what a powerful tool music can be. And then we know like, yeah, some of the other pieces are anchored in some of our work that we’ve done writing. So, yeah, that’s that’s part of where that’s that’s part of where it came from.

Ben Wideman  05:09
How did you get connected with this project?

Melody Zimmerman  05:12
So I worked with Seth for several years, with kids club programs in Harrisonburg, Virginia. And so we’ve already been riding together and working together on various things for the church. And so when he asked me to be a part of this project, I was super excited to be able to do something, post-slash during pandemic, in a new season of my life, and I’m actually living in a new place now. So more opportunities to connect with people that I’ve been connecting with for a long time.

Harrigan Bowman  05:48
We, Melody and I also wrote together for SHINE Curriculum’s Vacation Bible School curriculum that would have come out last summer, Come to the Table. And so Melody, my wife, Theresa Peachey Crissman, myself, and Christina Hershey, who’s a student at Duke Divinity. That was our kids club team. And yeah, so we… Melody and I know each other as writers really well.  I, for years worshiped with Melody before she moved away. And when she started working on this project with Seth, she invited me to work with her, we both get very excited about how we communicate the good news and compelling ways, through our words, and through things like little liturgies.

Ben Wideman  06:30
So, Greg, you are not the founder, but you’ve been pulled along the journey. Can you talk about why you’ve said yes to this sort of a project and and what you help bring to the table?

Greg Yoder  06:44
Well, I will reframe your question just a little bit, because I’ll give you that I’ve been pulled along. But it hasn’t been by Seth. It’s been, it’s been by the idea. And by the the excitement with which I see people responding to the project. I’ve been in the fundraising and development world for a couple years now. And it’s, it’s crazy how excited people are about this project. And, and the reason that it’s able to be free. And the reason that that Seth’s printing twice as many copies of the project for volume two for the Lent, volume of the project that he did for the Easter… and, Easter… the Christmas and Advent volume is because people are saying, “Yes! I see that this is doing something important. I want to support this.”  And so there are resources to make it widely available for free. And that’s, that’s really exciting to see. And, honestly, like, it’s really exciting to see the response of my kids and my family. Like, it’s it’s something that we use at home, and I love hearing my kids singing the songs and seeing them participate in the little liturgies. And, and hearing them talk about faith more regularly in just throughout our week. And that’s super exciting.

Ben Wideman  08:24
We’ve we’ve heard a lot of rhetoric over the last few years about the death of the center… That our world is becoming more polarized, including in church spaces, and not just politically but but even in terms of church sizes. We’ve heard that mega churches and house churches are the ones that are growing and we’re sort of seeing the death of the the old standard of two to three hundred people worshipping on a Sunday morning, perhaps a multi-staff, those just don’t exist anymore. They exists in fewer and fewer places, which also means that resources are more and more important. And so I’m guessing that this resource is with that in mind is with this void, this pulling back the curtain on on the need that is out there.

Seth Crissman  09:11
There’s there’s a there’s a huge need. You’re right, Ben. And, it’s, there are a lot of really good resources out there. We’ve worked you know, a two years ago, we worked writing with the folks at SHINE, who are anchored in MennoMedia and Brethren Press and we help them write their vacation bible school program for Come to the Table. And a lot of that was anchored in the work that we were already doing. We were already working writing with helping the congregations we were partnering with, to look at scripture and digest it and think through things for themselves. And MennoMedia creates a ton of great resources for faith formation. This was about… Yeah, coming coming alongside families in church communities to give them another tool. Yeah, creating music and the church is incredibly cost prohibitive. It’s it’s It costs money. It’s expensive. And so, and music is like a lifeblood for the church together as well, as well as some of these other resources. It was a way of giving families and church communities another thing to add in to help them further strengthen the rhythms of faith.

Melody Zimmerman  10:20
Yeah, I think this is for everyone. For little people who are new in the faith… We want it to be for families… we want it to be for singles… we want it to be for friends meeting together. But it is a group resource, and we hope to resource people together in community. So it’s whoever people are doing community with, of all ages. And yeah, we are very intentionally hoping to direct people to Jesus and cultivate Christian discipleship. But anyone who’s turning towards Jesus, somewhere on that journey is really our audience.

Seth Crissman  11:07
I think about it a lot, Ben, with the… like the idea of a table. So like, who might find themselves at my supper table on any given night of the week and where we live in Harrisonburg? It varies… but before COVID, like the number of folks who could find from the various different parts of our lives, from our community, for our neighborhood, from the church that we’re part of from our friends. Our hope is that anyone who would sit down at a table together, that it would be it would be something that they could connect with.  Yeah, for sure.

Harrigan Bowman  11:45
Now, can I be really honest about the first time I heard about this project from Seth when he was launching the idea and he was sharing it at a pastor’s lunch. So I’m also pastor… one of two pastors at Early Church. And we’re at this launch, and Seth is sharing about it. And I’m kind of vibrating inside like, oh my gosh, this is amazing. This is so cool. Is this guy completely insane? And how is it going to work for everyone of all times and you know, everyone at the table and I have to say, I think that’s one of the really exciting one of the numerous really exciting parts of this project is how it dives in and tries to really invite all ages and stages around the table. Not only our ages and our physical bodies but our ages in our in our spiritual journeys and lives. And I don’t know if you remember our conversation, Seth, as we were walking back to the car, although at that stage my brain was calculating who’s putting together all the artwork that you’re talking but I was like, are we talking about really great quality music? That’s also really attractive to the little kids but engaging for them, but also compelling to adults and forgive me not like not to be reductive but not cheesy, you know, we’re not only limited

Seth Crissman  13:13
Yeah, definitely.

Harrigan Bowman  13:14
And I I’m seeing it unfold it’s a it’s the thing that we were working at – Melody and I, from the visual art and the little liturgy side with Seth. And then Seth with all the musicians were like trying to get at that all the time, probably imperfectly in many different ways.

Music Playing  13:44
(Music from The Soil and the Seed Project plays)

Seth Crissman  14:34
It’s been an awesome, like, team of people working on this together, Ben. I mean, like a dozen musicians or more. It’s growing every time we do a new recording. Local folks, folks that we’ve met, sort of across Mennonite Church USA, and outside of the Mennonite Church, and local musicians who we love and respect here locally in Virginia. Our team of writers, a lot of hands working together to work towards a common towards a common goal. But I help to check in on people and see how the different pieces are going. But I, if there’s a real trust and collaborative spirit that happens that feels like, Yeah, we’re excited to continue to bring in new writers and new musicians and new folks that come in and share, share, like the the voice that they have. And as they as we together, we turn towards Jesus.

Ben Wideman  15:26
We’ve, we’ve hinted at what you get if you acquire this free product. But we haven’t really talked about the what, what, and that’s probably my fault as an interviewer… What exactly do people get when they say yes to The Soil and the Seed Project?

Seth Crissman  15:29
You get a really excited email in response, because we’re excited that people like want to live into new rhythms of faith!

Melody Zimmerman  15:50
For the Little Liturgy part, it means you’re getting a little card that you can hold in your hand, and on the card is a template of something that you can use to then jump into more conversation. And, yeah, so at the top, we have scripture verses. These are based on the lectionary cycle. And so they’re deeply held within the liturgical year. And then we written a prayer that can be shared together with one voice or many voices, often with a repeating line four, that really catches the essence of what we’re trying to say. And then we have questions that are for further discussion around the table. Some of the questions are aimed more towards a younger audience, some are older, everything in between deep things and also just like remembering past experiences. And then we have a little practice that can be done, this can be a posture, something tangible that we do with our hands, that helps us to engage more deeply. And then at the bottom, there’s a song that we are recommending for people to listen to this week, that’s connected with those scripture verses as well. That’s from the CD.

Ben Wideman  17:18
That’s available as a digital download as well. If you are the kind of person who doesn’t have a CD player in your home anymore… How soon until you put it on vinyl? that’s making a huge comeback right now

Melody Zimmerman  17:31
We’re getting there, we’re getting there!

Seth Crissman  17:34
Our audio engineer for this last round, who does a lot of our work, he… He’s like so are you thinking? I was like, Oh, we’re not gonna do that this time. But you know, yeah, it’s it’s been fun to see the the different ways it’s it’s grown and unfolded. And that form that Melody described… of sort of the pattern… It’s a pattern that we can practice for both like sharing in conversation, just that would naturally happen and also practice in listening. Yeah, I think that’s one of my favorite parts. These questions are kind of open ended. And, and they help us listen to each other and also listen to the Holy Spirit’s movement in our lives. And so I think that practicing listening is something that the world needs right now. Yeah, and the church church needs right now. And so hopefully, this will help build up some of those listening muscles on the folks who engage it. There’s also an artistic component that Harrigan has been working a lot with, outside of formatting the little liturgies

Harrigan Bowman  18:32
Yeah, well, when when Seth described this image of music liturgies and art, you know, our, my, my brain and Spirit just opened, like, Yes, we all… we all want to constantly be living in, and through, and around the arts of adoration, like we want to give life and breath and visual imagery and words, to the things that make us alive. And Jesus had made us in his image, creators. And so for this to have a visual component made so much sense and also was really exciting to me. And so we’re in the process of opening ourselves to what artists might be around whose work can line up and or bless the little liturgies so there’s a very physical feeling to the liturgies when you hold them in your hand, you know… If you have these at the dinner table, or wherever we say the table, that is a great place, but it could be elsewhere. Um, they’re beautiful to behold. The words are done in a beautiful way. Melody’s sister actually, Jessa, designed the images that have a seed, the soil, the sprout, the roots, that we follow the liturgy through, and on the back. You find one small piece of a larger artwork, and I love that we are not trying to make sense of all This for everyone, like we didn’t send out a, an artist statement about why our artwork is cut into six pieces, you know, or you’re gonna unlock some great secret when you set these things. Like, oh, we just allowed it to be what it is. Yeah, so if you if you get the little liturgy in your home, and you’re holding it on the back is some piece that adds up together. And I think it’s similar to the reflective questions and that they’re kind of open ended. It slows you down and consuming the image. You know, we’re a very visual world, we move very quickly through images. And sometimes we don’t stop to really read them. So I appreciate that it slows you down to read the image in relationship to what we’re saying. And it’s our prayer that the Spirit would use the images for different people in different ways, or that they would simply delight in the beauty of them.

Ben Wideman  20:52
I love that posture that you began with. We… just a few weeks ago wrapped up a mini-series looking at the life and legacy of MJ Sharp, a UN Peacekeeper who was killed in the Congo. And I think there’s this tendency to lift him up as a hero as someone willing to go where others were not. But his parents were very quick to say, no, no, MJ just entered doors as they opened. And he was willing to sit at the table and to listen to what people needed. And I think you’ve got a spirit here that is trying to do just that. You’re not coming in saying, hey, guess guess what? We got together, we got the solution to what your church’s problem is! It only costs $79.95. And you know?

Seth Crissman  21:36
We always do… we always do that! And it’s such a joke. Like, that’s not the word. That’s not the way that like, that’s, that seems so awful, and so arrogant. And I think, I think for me, like, we can create really robust, theologically, really rich resources that speak to this sort of like tradition of following Jesus in a very present and real genuine way, in our current moment.

Melody Zimmerman  22:07
Yeah, it makes me more excited to share it with people because I can just hand it out, and there’s no strings attached. And they don’t have to feel obligated to do anything with it. And so it’s, yeah, it makes it really fun to share, and encourages us to share broadly.

Harrigan Bowman  22:27
I think it’s some serious work to commit upfront, like when I learned about this project, before I became a part of it, to this remaining a free resource, like if the ideal was that everyone really wanted to use them, you know? How do you support that? And so I appreciate the side that I appreciate that the project is committed to creatively figuring that out. Because in a consumer society, you know, we’re always trying to sell something, and we’re always trying to make money off the next thing, but these are not these are the the words of Christ. These are the scriptures made alive in our time and day, you know, we’re not, we can’t capitalize on them in our own corner, even though we understand that you have to be paid. And one of the incredible things about this project that has also surprised me, is that Seth, when he was saying, Oh, do you want to work with me? And we want to compensate you as an artist. And I was like, I’m sorry, what? Yeah, and of course, we would always like to compensate each other at a lot. But you know, there’s not a lot of finances for things like artists, paying artists for their artwork, the use of their artwork and things and that that’s really beautiful and exceptional. valuing the work that they do in a world that can sometimes struggle to put a value on that. But I do I want to back up and say there is actually a catch, like, there’s not the gimmicky catch, you know, you’re not, you’re not signing up for something and then you have to do it. And then you’re gonna we’re gonna send you 60 emails to try to get you to buy something or no, but there is a catch. I think that it’s hard in our world and society particularly are, you know, rushing western digital society to slow down enough to pay attention to one resource. Yeah, I think it’s really hard. And when we’re giving out this beautiful, one thing, you could do a million things we could wear. We’re overwhelmed with all of the choices that we have. Yeah. And we’re just offering one simple thing. And it’s free and it’s simple and it follows a pattern and it and so I think that there’s the catch the catch is slowing down enough to use it and to cultivate the simple practice of it.

Greg Yoder  24:53
I have really appreciated the action pieces that have been included for I think they’re written mostly with the kids in mind. But it’s been really great for me to participate in those actions as well. Whether it’s a physical action, or a more concrete hands on thing to do to, to reflect on the passage and, and different things around that. So, as a parent, I appreciate it for my kids, but it’s also helpful for me and, and anybody who’s in education knows that. When you teach kids, and you teach you in a way that kids learned, well, the adults in the room are going to learn that just as well, from that, that kind of teaching.

Ben Wideman  25:44
What about looking forward? Do you have your sights set on a next season in the liturgical calendar or an Ordinary Time package for something before we get there?

Melody Zimmerman  25:58
Yeah, I’m working on Ordinary Time right now, and learning that it says it’s ordinary, but it’s not actually very ordinary. And the life of the Church, is exciting. And yeah, it’s not just about the main feasts, or the main celebrations, but daily discipleship and walking with Jesus and living out our faith as a Church is super important.

Seth Crissman  26:21
I think I’m also really excited, because the Church does really well at Advent. And we do really well in Lent. And then Holy Week, I think those are times that the Church shines in, and enabling and equipping for individuals to walk in us in a very mindful way. And I think that it’s all of the times in between that we maybe don’t always have that same sort of so I guess I’m really hoping that the, the, the careful rhythms that we’ve been working at establishing in these seasons will be able to extend and it will help people as they try to live and live out their faith as they walk with Jesus throughout the whole year.

Ben Wideman  27:10
We’re here in mid March, we have not yet reached Easter Sunday, yet for this year. Is it too late? If someone wants to sign up today?

Melody Zimmerman  27:19
No, it’s not too late. You can go to theSoilandtheSeedProject.org and sign up to receive a collection.

Seth Crissman  27:27
There’s a download form so you can fill it out. Let us know how many copies you want, whatever, whether you want digital copies, or physical copies. Once you have the digital copy, you’re welcome to share it as broadly as you want. You can share it within your community. You can share it with your neighbor, you can share it with your family, or your friends. And you can also send us an email at [email protected]  And we’d love to get in touch with you if you have questions about the project. Reach out… We’d love to tell you more about it and get some copies in your hands as soon as possible.

Ben Wideman  28:04
Thank you so much for being here with us on ~ing Podcast today. Everyone go check out The Soil and the Seed Project.  This year the season of Lent corresponds with Women’s History Month, and here at ~ing Podcast we’re excited to be bringing you the voices of several women over the next few weeks. Next week on ~ing Podcast we sit down with Anneli Leopp Thiesen, one of the creators of the Voices Together Hymnal project.  As always, we’d like to thank our guests and all who support ~ing Podcast. Thank you for joining us on the journey. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review and your favorite podcasting app. And if you have something to share, send us a message at [email protected], or by leaving us a voicemail. ~ing Podcast is hosted by Reverend Allison Maus, and Reverend Dr. Dennis Edwards. And produced by me, Ben Wideman. Views and opinions expressed on ~ing Podcast are those of our hosts and guests and may not represent that of Leader Magazine or MennoMedia. ~ing Podcast is a production of MennoMedia, a nonprofit publisher that creates thoughtful Anabaptist resources to enrich faith in a complex world. To find out more visit us online at MennoMedia.org.

Music Playing  29:23
(Music from The Soil and the Seed Project plays)