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A Review of
The Bees of Rainbow Falls: Finding Faith, Imagination, and Delight in Your Neighbourhood
Paperback: Urban Loft, 2017
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Reviewed by Duke Vipperman
If the author speaks as well as he writes, you should definitely consider getting in touch. Preston Pouteaux has written a thoroughly enjoyable manual on being both incarnational and missional captured through the fascinating lens of his beekeeping: a subject I knew less than nothing about, but which now fascinates me. Part One opens up the life of the hive, wandering bees, and the faithful bee keeper. We know that apples, avocados, broccoli, cranberries, cucumbers, grapefruit, melons and onions depend on bee pollination. Blueberries and cherries are 90-percent dependent. Almonds would completely disappear without honey bee pollination. Bees are a keystone of those crops: withdraw the bees and the crops will collapse. The collapse of bee hives across North America is a serious concern.
The looming collapse of North American churches, already well under way in some regions, effects most mainline euro-tribal churches. Christian communities are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” but lights are dimming as their saltiness weakens. One of the significant problems with our beloved inherited model of church is that we “the bees” exercise our influence only in the hive – which, if you think about it, is just weird. The private spiritual clubs we go to on Sundays make little difference to those who don’t. One of my colleagues wonders if perhaps God is withdrawing blessing from us because we have failed in the task in our time of discipling people such that we and they make the difference in our neighbouhoods – the difference God intended his church to make. The good news of the love of God in Jesus Christ has proven over the centuries to bring manifold blessings to this world hungry for love and forgiveness, for grace and mercy, and for communion with God – which can bind a larger community together. Would that we could help our neighbours taste the milk and honey of the promises of God.
The only way to fix that is to develop disciplines that anyone can practice: to be “keystone” people, as Pouteaux calls them, who hold up our communities by our active loving involvement in them. Preston concludes each major section of “The Bees of Rainbow Falls” with a chapter he calls “Making the Invisible Visible”. “To see with new eyes, what is happening in the invisible places of our hearts and imaginations as we hope to become people who love our neighbourhoods well” (57).
Some books on the missional task include sections on reorganizing the structures of the church. There is no doubt that needs to happen. However so profound is the adaptive challenge before us, and our structures so resistant to change, that some of my coaching colleagues seek first to foment change by inspiring people to live different locally. We won’t feel the motivation for deep organizational restructuring until we experience a deeper longing to engage our communities in a wholly different and organic way. The Bees of Rainbow Falls offers guidance along that path.
Part Two is applicable to any person anywhere. Each section concludes with practical ways to challenge yourself to develop a more sensitive “taste of place”. The honey bees make in the wild always has a unique “taste of place” because of the unique combination of flora they pollinate. On my kitchen counter is jar of honey from Alma, Ontario and one from Moorefield only 25.2 kilometers (15.6 miles) apart. Both are in Wellington County but there is a noticeable if subtle taste. The jay from Alberta bees is different still. Now I wonder: what is the unique taste of my new home town of Fergus?
Pursuing that analogy, what does the culture of this town “taste” like? I perceive a difference between the warmly conversational way I am greeted in the historical boutiques downtown and the more subdued business-like interactions in big box stores! By the way, much corporation-made honey tastes the same because the bees are just fed standard sugar water. Something natural is missing.
How might the Bees of Rainbow Falls help ordinary folk with the missional task? Well, any book that marks a vital place for being bored sounds like real life to me. Also individuals, agreeing to read the book at roughly the same time – I found it an easy read – could then experiment with making the invisible visible through Pouteaux’s practicums.
They could return to the hive and enter into conversation about what happened. “That God’s people rooted in particular neighbourhoods, would recognize the role they play to bless the places where they live. Imagine if churches had that small bee-sized vision for making neighbourhoods lush and beautiful, or that long-term vision to realize that generation after generation will benefit from their creativity” (49). Imagine indeed. That buzz would be very interesting.
The Rev Canon Dr Duke Vipperman served at Church of the Resurrection in Toronto, retiring in 2016.