The Neighborhood Church as Fungus
– Andy Wade –
If you’ve been reading my posts you know that I’m fascinated by mushrooms. The more I learn about them the more impressed I am both with the work they do and the lessons they have to teach us. So how, you might ask, could a neighborhood church being like mushrooms be a good thing? Let me explain the mushroom’s role in the garden and let you draw your own conclusions.
Exchanging Good Things with the World Around Us
Mushrooms are just the tip of the iceberg. What we see on the surface is connected to millions of miles of tiny filaments called “hyphae”, a massive network of underground mushroom roots (together called mycelium). When hyphae move into the neighborhood they develop networks of mutuality, exchanging water and nutrients for sugars and carbohydrates. Plants and fungi both benefit from this relationship of interdependence and together create flourishing garden communities not just for themselves, but for all the critters who live there and the transient wildlife who stop by. They don’t set up competing interests, but mutually beneficial relationships.
Powerful Resource in Times of Stress
When drought comes, and it will, the hyphae are already prepared. Because they help the soil retain both water and nutrients they become an essential life-source to the garden community during times of stress due to drought and disease. When the hyphae is destroyed by chemicals and/or major disruption of the soil, plants in the neighborhood will require massive amounts of outside assistance to survive. There is no healthy local network to support sustainable, healthy life in the garden neighborhood.
The Original Social Network
Paul Stamets, my favorite mushroom advocate, once called mycelium the original Internet. I like to think of it as a healthy social network. Before digging or planting in the garden, if you spend time observing it, asking questions like, Where are the sunny spots? Shady spots? What is the health of the soil and does it vary from place to place? What’s just under the surface? How are all these pieces interconnected? You begin to discover that even before you plant the first seed there is already a broad network of connection at work.
Going in and tilling it all up so you can plant your preferred garden disturbs this entire network and, although it might look good on the surface… at first… in the end you end up with damaged soil, damaged relationships between all of the good plants, animals and microbes already at work, and an unsustainable mess.
Not only this (and I’ve learned from experience) you end up creating way more work for yourself as you attempt to reconnect all the broken pieces. If you’ve ever had to re-create a Facebook account and reconnect with all your friends… or lost or damaged your un-backed-up phone and had to recreate your phone directory… well, you get the idea.
What do you think? Am I crazy to think the church is like (or should be like) fungus in the neighborhood? I would love to hear your thoughts!