A Spirit of Abundance for Commonweal Magazine Last fall I was asked by Commonweal Magazine to visit a homestead outside of Alderson, West Virginia for a story on contemporary religious communities. Bethlehem Farm is a Catholic, sustainable living community in Central Appalachia. Resident volunteers, or caretakers, live long-term at the homestead, farming the land, caring for the animals and developing the property. The farm makes any effort possible in pursuit of sustainability, including keeping bees, maintaining an array of solar panels and using compost toilets.
The caretakers meet each day for morning prayer, which often takes the form of a topical discussion seen through the lens of scripture; “brain drain” in Appalachia, or the migration of highly trained or college-educated individuals out of the region, was the topic the morning I visited. Breakfast follows, which is when the days tasks are assigned. Meals are eaten as a group at the farm and cooking duties are shared as all others are. The farm also provides at-cost home repair for people in need that live in the Alderson area, with the work performed by the caretakers.
The people I spoke with ended up at the farm for a variety of reasons. Most, though, mentioned a desire to live a more simple life in closer communion to the planet, one that allows them a different way to engage with their spirituality.
Here’s a selection of photographs from my day in Alderson.