erin-steele-story2.jpg2020 was a year of challenge and change, imploring the world to remain flexible, faithful, and focused on God. As an incoming MDiv student at Candler, selecting a Contextual Education I placement required greater flexibility, as many legacy sites were now operating remotely, while other sites were closed indefinitely in response to the global pandemic.

Having spent the previous six months quarantined with my family in Raleigh, North Carolina, I was excited about relocating to Atlanta to volunteer at a Con Ed placement with onsite operations to fellowship with my cohort while serving the community. The site that caught my eye involved developing a horticulture therapy (HT) program at an award-winning urban farm.

Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture (TLW) is an urban farm located a few blocks from the Atlanta University Center in the historic West End. TLW provides fresh organic produce and offers farmer training to the Atlanta community. Despite TLW’s rich legacy as a national pioneer in the Black urban farming space, our cohort’s fall semester Con Ed I experience left me wanting. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, TLW lost significant funding and was restructuring the organization. Consequently, our projects were delayed, and in frustration, I contemplated whether I would return to the placement in the spring.

In the midst of discerning an answer, God led me to Proverbs 16:9, which says, “In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” God also revealed that my discontentment was rooted in an egotistical desire for validation through accomplishments that were subconsciously veiled under the guise of service. True Christian service is selfless and divinely ordered. To fully appreciate the Con Ed experience, I needed to surrender my expectations and remain flexible, faithful, and focused on God.


Just as the spring heralds growth and restoration in nature, it also revitalized our cohort’s projects at TLW.  My colleagues and I produced a marketing video to attract new campers to attend the TLW summer camp.  We also completed the horticultural therapy project, which included planning and planting the garden, and developing the sessions for TLW’s Wellness Wednesday initiative. Our spring semester culminated with a pilot Wellness Wednesday event at the TLW HT garden hosted for our Candler classmates, faculty, and friends.

The spring semester of Con Ed also facilitated the blossoming of a new area of study that led to professional growth for me. The assigned readings and in-class discussions within the Con Ed seminar piqued my interest in environmental restorative justice. After researching and taking an external training course, I developed a hybrid framework known as Mediated Healing Circles (MHC) to help reconcile environmental crimes against creation. I now offer MHC as a service available through my mediation practice.

As creation seeks to establish a new normal in our dynamic post-pandemic world, we can be assured of divine grace and guidance if we remain flexible, faithful, and focused on God.