By: Taylor Fulkerson~Opinions & Editorials Editor~
Erin and Robert Lockridge are not typical Norwood residents. They heat their home with a stove and refuse to use power tools if they can help it. They run a business that has neither a website nor set prices. Their neighbors recognize them when they trek through Norwood’s streets on many occasions with wheelbarrows full of dirt.
The Lockridges are parish farmers. They tend gardens, grow food for the neighborhood and offer gardening programs for children — all to build a community in Norwood from a perspective of faith. Since coming to Norwood, the Lockridges have started their own pizza parlor, Moriah Pie, which serves the local community.
Robert Lockridge grew up in Central Virginia. Erin grew up in Illinois. The couple met in 2010 while Erin took a summer course at Regent College in Vancouver, where she had completed her graduate degree in 2005.
While attending Regent, Robert underwent
a radical shift. He had converted to evangelical
Christianity at age 17, but his faith was challenged
during graduate school at Regent while living in
Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, “a notorious
district” where drug addiction and prostitution
He felt powerless and frustrated, and when he saw a Christian community that had started a garden, he thought they were wasting their time. “After judging these folks and not really understanding what they were doing, I felt the need to do something with my body, to pray with my body,” Robert said. “I was inundated by things I couldn’t change. I needed a way of physically praying.”
“Planting seeds became this way (of praying) that captured my heart again…You put this thing in the ground and there’s this mystery, and it looks like death,” Robert said. Gardening became a way of holding on to hope. After graduate school at Regent, Robert de cided to move back east. He visited Norwood in hopes of becoming a parish farmer. His first visit only lasted six hours, but after experiencing an overwhelming hospitality from a community with which he could grow, he committed to living and working in Norwood.
After the Lockridges got engaged, they moved to Norwood and started a community-supported agriculture (CSA) project with the hope of reaching out to the whole community, not just their church. “Robert had an idea to start a pizza parlor because, who doesn’t like a pizza?” Erin said. “It’s a good way to use a lot of the produce, and it’s prepared and given in a way that is readily consumable.” This was the inspiration for Moriah Pie.
“The Lord Will Provide”
Moriah Pie was started in October 2012. The Lockridges grow all the ingredients themselves. Because of the time it takes to grow the ingredients, the shop only operates on Fridays out of Speckled Bird café at 1766 Mills Ave. in Norwood.
“We named it Moriah Pie after the story of Abraham and Isaac in the Bible when Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his son,” Erin said. “It’s kind of a weird story, but when God provided the ram instead of his son to sacrifice, Abraham names that mountain ‘Mount Moriah,’ names God as ‘Godwho- will-provide.’”
“The way we don’t name prices and entered into this kind of economic relationship with people that’s not as much in our control, we’re trying to venture into deeper trust that God will provide for us and for the people who come, and we don’t always know what it looks like.”
After starting the pizzeria, the Lockridges shifted their crop production to meet their objectives. They grow large quantities of tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, eggplants and other plants that work well for pizza toppings, pizza sauce and salads.
Moriah Pie doesn’t serve meat on a regular basis. “(It’s) not because we don’t enjoy meat — we love meat — but there are lots of ethical issues around meat, both for the animal’s sake as well as for those who are butchering,” Robert said. For the past two years, they have only served meat on Christmas.
The couple must continue to hold the economic picture of Moriah Pie in tensions between principles and practicality, but they are emboldened by their faith in God. “The longer we live here and the longer we tend the land, the more we become the land,” Robert said. They believe they have received their lives in love, so they desire to offer that back.
Life in Norwood
The Lockridges attempt to live in harmony with their neighbors, functioning on a system of giving and receiving. Erin also runs a summer gardening workshop for kids, which they call the “garden camp.” “At the end of the session, she has all the oldest kids cook a meal and then serve all the other kids,” Robert said. “Their families come. All these families and kids are eating and playing, and for the older kids, it’s really empowering.”
The Lockridges have lived in Norwood for over three years now. They know the neighborhood by its environment now — by the wild bees in the park, the fruit trees in the neighborhood and by the land itself. Moriah Pie has been operational for over a year now, and as more Norwood residents come to know the project, the pizzeria increases its chances of success.