BeeVangelists – Living Lutheran

Not surprisingly, the experience Lisa Bates-Froiland brings to her role as pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Milwaukee didn’t include an extensive background in beekeeping.

“None,” said Bates-Froiland, who has been on the congregation since 2011. “I put honey in my tea, end of story.”

But these days, he knows more about bees. Six years ago, Bates-Froiland and Savior joined forces with BeeVangelists, a fledgling nonprofit whose mission is to spread “the gospel of abundance as taught by bees through outreach, education, products and experiences.”

“We are an urban church that has tripled its membership in the last 10 years,” he said. “We do live things outside the box, like beehives on the roof.”

The partnership, Bates-Froiland said, was born out of a simple question the 132-year-old parishioners asked themselves: What can we do with a flat spot on the roof?

“We talked about a bond, but it was too heavy,” he said. “I had a friend who was a beekeeper, and he said, ‘What about bees?’

Bates-Froiland’s first thought was, “Who’s going to look after them?” But the friend had a ready answer: “I know a guy.”

That man was Charlie Koenen, the founder of the BeeVangelists. Once the owner and operator of a local computer store, Koenen became interested in beekeeping, or raising bees, through Growing Power, a nonprofit farm in town.

“The farm was run by Will Allen, a former NBA player, and he taught people about food and nutrition and connection to the earth,” Koenen said. “In 2001, I was frustrated and open to new ideas. I had no connection to the ground – I was playing in digital sand, in silicon.

“Most of the work happens outside the hive, spreading goodness and making growth possible.”

Like Bates-Froiland, Koenen knew little about beekeeping, but the more she learned, the more intrigued she became. He soon became a beekeeper and beekeeping instructor at Growing Power. In 2015, he launched BeeVangelists.

“It’s the idea that bees are our teachers, and bees are a lot like a congregation in that they all come together to hear a good word and then go out and make noise,” says Koenen, who is now a Redeemer member. “And I love that the community comes together when I decide to do projects around the bees, like collecting honey, extracting wax from the hive and making it into a candle or lip balm.”

Among the more than 100,000 animal species that contribute to plant pollination, bees are the most important. About 100 commercial crops in the United States would disappear if bees did not transfer the pollen needed for reproduction from plant to plant.

Bees are the standard bearers among insect pollinators because they are usually the most numerous and the only pollinator group that feeds exclusively on nectar and pollen throughout their life cycle.

Bates-Froiland said: “Bees are vital to our survival and yet the fear of bees has led to a huge loss of these animals, which we need so much for our food supply.

“I observe the bees on the roof, I see them coming in, coming out, coming in again and coming out again. And it reminds me of a church like ours, where people come in, are fed by hearing the word of God, but the main part of our Christian life doesn’t happen here – it has to happen like the main church of the bees. activity is to go out and bring nectar to pollinate and make honey. Most of the work happens outside the hive, spreading goodness and making growth possible.”

Building society

Located near Marquette University and also home to the largest homeless shelter in Wisconsin, Redeemer has used its work with BeeVangelists to strengthen its outreach to homeless people in its neighborhood. Participants in the Noon Run lunch program, a partnership between Marquette students and the community, learned about beekeeping and facilitated a discussion about the importance of bees.

“It boosted their wind power and gave them confidence and purpose and a sense of place to walk into a room and want to hear people’s stories,” said Koenen, who also describes herself as a storyteller.

Although Koenen is a member of Redeemer, he still values ​​the Catholic faith in which he was raised. “I’m multiracial, I guess you’d call it,” he said. “I like to think of myself as looking for the best in everything. I really respect Pastor Lisa’s message and enjoy spending time with her, showing her what happens every day in the hive, and then turning it into a sermon or lesson she reads from the Bible. the public.

“Bees return the favor and build the house to be strong. You can learn a lot by placing a hive in your life in one way or another.”

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