The Brotherhood of the Land

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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There is a group of men at our church who mow the grass and consider that to be a sacred calling. We are not a secret organization, though most people at our church couldn’t tell you who we are. For lack of a better name I will call us the Brotherhood of the Land. We have not taken vows, but we are a rather monastic group. Blue jeans serve as our robes, caps our tonsures, and our hermitage is a shed. Our shed would be appreciated by anyone who loves the beauty of tools and tackle. The inside smells like oil and leather and old grass and worn tools. A rake and shovel lean against the wall along with a rock bar that we use when the work gets hard. There is a box by the door that holds gloves, horseshoes (no one knows how or why the horseshoes came to be there), a handsaw, a gallon of paint, and some other odds and ends. There are lawnmowers, weed eaters, blowers, gasoline cans, and several buckets.

Initiation rites for novices mainly involve learning the tricks to starting the lawnmowers and how to change the height settings to avoid rocks on the rougher parts of our land. Currently our order consists of three persons, all men, hence the masculine tone of this piece, though I assure you we stand ready to welcome any sisters who would become our Poor Clares. As with every monastic community, we have certain rules for the practice of our calling. These rules do not currently exist in written form but are common knowledge within the brotherhood.

Rule #1 - Whatever grows is our grass.

There have been occasional attempts to introduce popular species of tame grasses onto our property. We applaud those efforts but have noticed that the native species generally triumph over time. The Buffalo Grass that brother Michael sowed back in ‘04 seems to have held its own by the back porch of the second building, but clover has crowded it out near the sanctuary. That’s okay with us. Mowed clover looks very nice on a Sunday morning. Out by the main road you’ll find nothing but native grasses of the sort you see alongside Texas highways. Like the clover, they look nice when freshly mowed. Every year it seems the stars and weather align to allow some native plant to flourish for a period of time. We mow them all.

Rule #2 - Don’t mow the grass at Covenant unless you really want to.

The Brotherhood of the Land doesn’t have the time or inclination to ask how much work we are doing and wonder why more people in the church don’t volunteer to join us. We mow the grass because that is our calling. If a brother finds that his spirit is vexed by the somewhat solitary nature of our order, that’s a sign that he should bow out. Many have joined us for a season or two and then moved on. That’s okay with the brotherhood. We take our vows seriously, but they are not necessarily for life.

Rule #3 - Keep your work a secret.

If you mow the grass on Saturday, don’t talk about it on Sunday. If someone asks who mowed the grass, don’t lie. But unless asked, keep it to yourself. Members of the brotherhood have been known to catch the eye of the one who did the mowing and give him a respectful nod on Sunday morning, but that’s as far as it goes. This is definitely a “Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” kind of thing.

Rule #4 - Listen for God.

And here is the heart of it. Here is the secret behind our sacred mysteries. We are hot on the trail of God. We bend our bodies to this task because we seek God in the wild and untamed places. There is a labyrinth at the back of the property, which we tend and care for among our many duties, but we have found a glorious, free-form labyrinth of our own. Sweat is our sacred ablution and the mowing our hesychasm. Mowing the grass is perfectly suited for deep spiritual thoughts. If your mind has a bent toward meditation and creativity, look for insights aplenty. The whole world is filled with God, and our work has a way of causing the scales to drop from our eyes.

Pilgrim, if my humble words have stirred your heart but you don’t live close enough to join our sacred brotherhood, do not despair. Your work can become just as sacred if you are determined to see it that way. That too is one of the great mysteries.

Image by Gordon Atkinson