I love gardening. Pastor Tim and I are very excited that we were able to get our own personal plot at the community garden this year and spend a lot of our downtime in this space. We have already enjoyed harvesting a variety of greens and peppers, yellow zucchini, and green beans and we are looking forward to the tomatoes, carrots, squash, and eggplant to come. The growth of spring and the harvest of summer and fall feel to me like Gospel because they speak to new life and slow growth and God’s grace.
You may have noticed the new garden boxes on the Mulberry Street side of our church parking lot. This creative garden space, approved by Property and Finance, is sponsored and maintained by the Living Peace Gathering. Strangely enough, this simple garden has provided a wonderful opportunity for ministry. During our lunch hour, Pastor Tim and I typically go out to the garden and water when needed. Often, while we are outside maintaining the garden, people walk by giving us the opportunity to engage them in a conversation. We share what produce is ready and what will be ready soon. This garden is providing a unique opportunity to form relationships with our neighborhood and has helped our church be visible as a church that cares for the community where it resides. This garden also gives our neighborhood kids opportunity to see something many may not have experienced before. In the middle of a city, they get to experience the joy of nature as well as learn things like patience and delayed gratification. Some of our Youth Club kids helped plant the seeds and the kids who come for the Saturday Hangtimes during the summer spend time watering and maintaining the garden with the help of our Brethren Volunteer Service worker, David. When produce is ready, they eat it together or take some home to enjoy with their families.
But how is this ministry, you might ask? How can a garden also be an opportunity for outreach? I’m reminded of Paul’s words from his first letter to the church in Corinth. This scripture is especially applicable since Paul uses a gardening metaphor: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6). We are planting seeds in our community with this garden — seeds of compassion, of Christ’s love, of God’s beauty, and of our church’s care for others. We may also be watering the faith that has already been planted in those we encounter. And our prayer, all the while, is that God gives growth — that God will bless these seeds being planted and watered so that they might grow into something that brings forth the Kingdom of God.
By giving a free gift of healthy food to our neighborhood, one that we labor for and our neighborhood kids labor for, we show our community that we care about their well-being~~and that we are looking beyond ourselves. By giving our kids opportunity to experience nature they see the beauty and wonder of God’s creation. This garden is providing opportunity to show people that we may not have otherwise been able to engage that we truly are a “church in the heart of the city with the city at heart.”