June 2, 2011

How Does Your (Church) Garden Grow?

Garden at St. Andrew's, SeattleI had lunch with Brian Sellers-Petersen of Episcopal Relief and Development and heard about ERD’s Abundant Life Garden Project. We are adapting that program along with the RENEW curriculum from the Lutheran Church for our Back to the Garden: Renewing God’s Earth Vacation Bible School this summer. The key to the whole thing is that we have a church garden.

How about you? Anything growing on your sacred plot of land? Nearly any church could reserve a small portion of their grounds for a demonstration garden that will kick some fresh produce into the food stream for their local foodbank. Setting aside such a space can be an important source of awareness of the hunger issues locally and around the world.

Beyond your own church grounds, parishioners can be invited into the abundance of God’s creation by taking home starts donated to them by the church. We have launched our new “Jubilee Gardens” project where on three Sundays this spring we gave out starts for all kinds of veggies. People have taken them home and will glean their harvest, bring it back to the church to be presented at the altar and then used in our hunger programs or taken as donations to our local FamilyWorks Foodbank.

A third step we have taken is to work with the assigned chefs for our last-Sunday-of-the-month Jubilee dinner where we serve a sit-down three-course meal to over a 100 guests. The cooks let us know what their menus are for June through November and our gardeners plant a crop they can incorporate into their particular meal.

Church gardens are good evangelism. They let the neighborhood know there is a thriving concern behind this symbol of abundance. They provide a wonderful place for newcomers to plug right into an important ministry (Holy Weeders Wanted). They connect us to our surrounding feeding programs. They are a visible sign of an inward truth: Episcopalians care about creation.

It is not too late to dig in the dirt, plant a garden, and see the harvest before the year’s end. How does your garden grow?