This past week, the New Leaf Lead Team gathered to talk through strategy, direction and vision for 2018, and as we grasped for language to describe the unconventional work we find ourselves doing alongside the Canadian church, the metaphor behind the name New Leaf emerged as a helpful image.

If you have been around us for a while, the name New Leaf Network may simply remind you of the Church Plant Design Shop you attended, or the conversation you had with Jared Siebert or Elle Pyke, or a conference you attended; but this name is an organic metaphor. Every gardener, whether seasoned or beginner, will tell you that the new leaf that appears, seemingly miraculously, from the ground or on a struggling plant is an exciting sight. Since moving to Saskatoon three years ago I’ve been trying my hand at gardening, and I can tell you that even though I knew that a seed had been planted, and I had been watering regularly, when I wander through the yard and see new growth pushing through the top of the soil to become a visible reality of life, it’s an encouraging sight.

Yet, it is also mysterious. There is so much more going on in the growth of that plant that I have no control over. Whether it is the abundant and enthusiastic growth of weeds, or the mysterious gap in my garden where I planted zucchini this year and nothing came up, I have a lot less control over the organic process of gardening than I would like. I merely tend to what I am given.

So returning to the New Leaf Network, this organic metaphor has been helpful for us as we tend to this work that God has given us to cultivate, and try to put words to what we are doing. The phrase that keeps coming up this fall for those of us on the Lead Team has been that we seek to help the Canadian church discover new potential. To lean into the organic metaphor, the word discover could be replaced with unearth, and potential could be replaced with sprouts. We are gardeners, tending to the mysterious growth of new plants that move from potential to visible reality.

The New Leaf Network is committed to this plot of land we call Canada, and we are certain that there are seeds planted in this soil that will grow into something new, innovative and exciting. It is our firm commitment to the uniquely Canadian story that helped us see, even more clearly, that there is so much going on below the surface — seeds laying dormant or just starting to germinate, things that are native to this Canadian soil, these are not invasive species or imported flower arrangements. God is at work to bring about connection, healing, and transformation in the church in Canada through Canadian initiatives responding to the Canadian context. The future of the Canadian church is already in this soil.

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To push this image a little further, let’s think more about the soil. Moving into our house here in Saskatoon, one of the first things I did was build a raised garden bed in the yard. Over the last three growing seasons, I have discovered that it will be an ongoing task to cultivate the goodness of the soil in which I attempt to grow food. The compost bins in our yard are a big part of that effort. My friend, who knows the more technical side of growing things, shared with me that it is about finding the right balance of sandy soil, clay and organic matter — soil that has more recently been another organic item. Whether I am composting carrot tops that have done their job of grabbing sunshine and pulling those nutrients underground to the root vegetable, or winter squash peelings that did their job of protecting the fruit of that squash until I could eat it, or if I’m throwing out the apples that sat too long on my countertop without fulfilling their destiny of being eaten (because of my own tendency toward less healthy options for sustenance), each of these organic items have more of a life because I toss them into the compost heap. They will continue to contribute to life and food in the future as compost that enriches the soil that will cradle new growth.

So where am I going with this, beyond a self-congratulatory examination on diverting organic waste from the landfill and into my compost heap? Well, in any of the new initiatives that are sprouting from the soil in the Canadian church, there is a history in this soil that contributes to what is now growing. There are so many church plants and new initiatives that are no longer visible in the church gardens of Canada, but the fruit of those movments are still contributing to new things. That is why at the New Leaf Network we tell the stories of not only the successes (think thriving oak tree), but also that seeming failures that lived for a season and are no more. From the image of compost we can be encouraged that there can be more to the story of any seeming failure that has taken place in the Canadian church. There is life even in death.

One more part of the organic image that has been helpful at New Leaf is the garden trellis. As the Network begins to take shape, it is a legitimate question that we keep asking — what exactly are we? And it is a temptation to create a box or a structure that will provide definition to what is emerging. But more and more we are thinking of ourselves as a trellis. A trellis is the supportive structure, intentionally put in place, for organic growth to use to support further growth. Think of the vines of beans climbing up so they have space to produce fruit. The New Leaf Network is building a trellis of workshops, conferences, and conversations that are intended to support the growth that is already happening, but would be stunted if left to grow on its own along the ground. We keep asking the question, how can we support what is already growing. We are not seeking to graft every new sprout of innovation into a New Leaf oak tree. We are happy to be the supportive trellis encouraging the growth.

So, as the New Leaf Network itself grows, we hope that you will join us. We hope to hear more of your stories on our podcast and blog, we hope to see you in person at our events. We hope you will reach out and connect with us for a cup of coffee and tell us how the garden has been growing on your patch of soil.

If you want to connect, don’t hesitate to email us at [email protected] or send us a message on social media.