Imagine that you are reading a story. It is a thrilling tale, with adventure, intrigue, betrayal, deep despair and unexpected hope. Now imagine that at a certain point you turn the page and discover that you have been pulled in – nothing more is written, but you are suddenly expected to live in this story. You desperately try to remember what came before: what was the task you were supposed to complete? Who were the agents of betrayal? What is the expectation?
This sounds like Alice in Wonderland, doesn’t it? Or Harry Potter entering the wizarding world, rather than the way we usually think of our lives. And yet, we do live in the story of God’s relationship with ourselves and all of creation. Each week, we hear bits of the story at church, in our own devotional reading, and ideally, we are pulled into the story, carried along by it in our own daily lives.
The Bishop’s Committee on Creation Care (BCCC) has been working since last July to help Anglicans, parishes, and the diocese as a whole to better imagine how we might live out this story in relation to creation. Our world continues to grapple with the climate crisis, and the Church is realizing the many ways that we have neglected our calling to live in peace with the diversity of plants, insects, animals, and people that God created in that first garden community or community garden.
In that context, the BCCC is asking parishes to spend some time thinking about the land, and the actual earth that surrounds their churches. What other creatures live in the soil and in the foliage? How could these creatures be cared for? What needs to be done to ensure that plants, animals, insects and birds continue to flourish around your church? What has been lost, and what needs to be restored? What can grow there? Is there a way that you can tend the earth around your church and also meet the needs of the surrounding community?
Perhaps your church has enough space to create beds that provide gardening opportunities for those who no other access to land. Perhaps your church has enough space to grow vegetables for those in your community who are food insecure. Perhaps making a pollinator garden for your community is the most appropriate choice. Or perhaps you have a vision for both vegetables and pollinators.
Does your busy context mean that a meditation garden would be appropriate? Is it possible to tuck a few currant or raspberry bushes in the shady spots around the perimeter? Is there room for a dwarf apple or peach tree or two? Or maybe your church only has space for a small bed of native plants or some pollinator annuals in a planter.
Of course, imagining what is possible on the land around your church is one thing. Turning that vision into reality can be more challenging. Where to start? This is where the Bishop’s Committee on Creation Care hopes to help in a number of ways:
- Members of the BCCC are available to discuss your project both in terms of vision and in terms of practical steps.
- Numerous parishioners from churches with established community gardens have volunteered to act as a resource for those with questions about gardens. They are also willing to provide tours of their gardens.
- The committee has created a toolkit that outlines the steps to starting a garden, including assembling a team, plant selection, allocating a budget, pruning and planting tips, and COVID-19 consideration. In addition, there are links to external resources providing detailed instructions on starting a community garden and suggestions for plants. This can be found at toronto.anglican.ca/creationcare.
We don’t know what this summer will bring in terms of worship and communal life in our churches. Beginning a garden project is one way that we can gather as a community, imagine our life together in a new way, and enter into the story of healing for creation that God calls us to. Please, join us.
Sylvia Keesmaat and Chanelle McLeod are members of the Bishop’s Committee on Creation Care. If you would like more information on starting a garden on your church property, go to www.toronto.anglican.ca/creationcare or send an email to [email protected].