Big impact in the Big Apple
That, Sherouse adds, is a challenge for left-of-center churches such as Metro Baptist, which remain focused on not imposing on anyone. These are issues that Sherouse and Henkel discuss as they take stock of their recent accomplishments and envision the church’s future.
“We have found that there are a lot of entry points into the life of Metro -- a lot of ways people can find us, either through a particular interest or a desire to volunteer or connect with a faith community,” Henkel said. “We are excited about that, and want to be intentional about ways people can stay engaged once they find themselves here.”
Growing crops on the rooftop
One such entry point is Metro Baptist’s roof garden, which RMM started last year to provide organic produce for two food pantries in the neighborhood. Standing on the roof amidst the rows of sky-blue plastic kiddie pools ready to be planted with this season’s harvest, Sherouse recalled the efforts of the “bucket brigade” that helped launch the garden.
With a truck full of 7 metric tons of dirt out on the street, 70 volunteers lined up between the truck and the roof, snaking their way up four steep flights of steps. For four hours they passed buckets of dirt, hand to hand, up to the roof, until the 50 plastic kiddie pools were full.
Bob Baer’s interest in Metro was certainly piqued by the lure of rooftop harvests. “Feeding local people from a previously unused space on top of a church is a small miracle,” said Baer, a retired labor union attorney who joined the church in the past year.
Having spent many summers of his youth helping out on the farm of a family friend, Bob brings both passion and knowledge to the roof garden project.
“Growing crops on a rooftop in New York is a pretty exotic undertaking. Rooftop gardening is a relatively new phenomenon here -- part of a larger and growing urban farming movement,” Baer said. “I step onto the roof, look out at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the high-rises and the Hudson River, and am inspired by what we are trying to do. The sky is the limit.”
Sherouse said: “The roof is a metaphor for me. In a dense city, this is a place to take a long view. A place for collaboration. A place to educate kids and think about where our food is coming from. It is an entry point for people -- a vehicle for community building, education and advocacy.”