Buddhist Group Builds Multi-Class Community

Montague Farm Zen House has Deep Local Roots

Karen Kisui Werner

I met Karen while living at the Zen Peacemakers farm as a Seminary student in 2008.  She was part of the local Sangha who sat with Seminary students in the Zendo.  I was inspired by her leadership in the community economies movement and very excited when she was hired to direct the Montague Farm Zen House.  She has lived in the region for many years and has close connections with several local groups. I experienced the benefits of Karen’s generously sharing her connections first-hand.  When I returned to Montague last December, she introduced me to the Brick House Community Resource Center where I’ve volunteered weekly since.

It has also been a great joy to get to know regulars at our weekly community meals as Karen has partnered with other service agencies to build a core group of service providers and service recipients who come to our meals.  I write “service” while cringing, because the Montague Farm Café blurs the line between server and recipient, as all of us attend the meal to be fed in one way or another.

In the Zen Houses panel at the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism, Karen explained how the stone soup is an important practice and symbol of the Montague Farm Café.  Every week, Café participants are invited to contribute to a pot with a stone in it.  Some add drawings or notes to the “soup”.  Some contribute dollar bills and others contribute larger sums.  With the Café, Karen creates as open and alive of a container as she can, responding to others’ ideas and making the best meal possible out of the ingredients available.  In the process, she tries to remember the importance of fun as she practices service with love and dignity.

Want to experience the Zen House?  Check out our residence training program.  You can also support the Zen Houses and view this presentation by purchasing DVD’s of this panel.

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