I was asked by the Five Oaks retreat centre to gather together some friends who like to create liturgy, and music, and prayers. The idea was to offer worship services for use in the United Church across Canada, for the season of Creation, that would also celebrate the beautiful place where Five Oaks sits. I spend a lot of time at the retreat centre, and know that it is a real gift. In May, I went there for an overnight retreat, we called it a sleepover, with 3 friends. We spent the afternoon walking around the grounds of the centre. We chatted, and prayed, and began to gather ideas about what we could write. Then we ate supper together, and attended a funky concert by a woman who plays the Japanese flute called a shakuhachi.
The next day was spent on writing, and laughing, and singing together. For me, the whole experience was a good reminder of the beauty of the created world we live in, that I don’t always see when I spend my time in cars and offices and churches, and houses, and stores. It was good to slow down, to be outside, to go for a walk, to sit under a big tree and pray.
It is harder, living as most of us do in this large urban area, to retain the sense that we live in God’s garden, and are charged with its care. There was a time when most of the best farm land in Canada was all around us. More and more of it is being plowed under and paved over for new housing and roads.
There is something truly wonderful about planting seeds, or seedlings, and watching them grow, tending them, and anticipating the results. There is a special awareness of our dependence on things out of our control, when we grow things, or try to grow things.
I remember living on the prairies, serving churches in farm communities. Those folks knew they were connected, not just to the land, but to the weather. They watched the sky, and waited, and prayed for rain in the spring, and for clear days during harvest time.
I love eating the tomatoes and lettuce we have grown for ourselves in our little backyard plot. This week I have also been enjoying kale grown by a good friend. The vegetables taste that much better for never having been packaged in plastic, trucked hundreds or thousands of miles, and then had the flavour chilled out of them in a huge grocery store.
We were made to tend the earth, the bible story tells us. We were also made to eat well, of good things that we can watch grow. These are practical, basic things, and they are deeply spiritual.
This is something that churches are beginning to re-discover. A church may not have a lot of money, or big crowds of people, or flashy programs to attract attention. But a lot of churches, like ours, have land. Land that can be put to use, to grow things, to bring people together, to help them re-connect with the sacredness of creation.
There is a “growing movement” of churches that set aside some of their land to make space for community gardens.
We could do something like that. I spent time walking the grounds around the church this week. What I noticed is that even after we sub-divide the property, and sell off part of it to be developed as housing lots, we will still have space enough left to do other things.
There is a great section between the back end of the fellowship hall and the parking lot where we could easily put in some nice raised beds.
We could grow vegetables. We could offer the space to other people in the area, some of whom might want to garden, but live in an apartment or senior’s building, and don’t have their own land to work with. We could grow vegetables to give to the food bank, or to use in community meals here at Trinity.
It might be a very small thing at first, that could grow, inch by inch, row by row, into something beautiful. Amen