As the leader of our new Creation Care ministry at Saint Paul’s United Methodist Church, I set a goal to have our first Creation Care Sunday on the weekend following Earth Day. As timing would have it, we received approval from the Board of Trustees to install our church vegetable garden exactly two weeks before, so the race was on to build it in time for the congregation to plant on Creation Care Sunday. Luckily, our Head Pastor Dr. Rev. Kandace Brooks championed this new ministry with enthusiasm, and I teamed up with two women on our Green Team who were willing to help: Jessie Perry, a fantastic Sunday School teacher who always had a kind word, and Patty Bailey, an experienced gardener who was happy to share her knowledge. With this kind of support I knew our graph paper plans were about to become a reality!
Our site was in the middle of the church grounds, so the garden needed to be attractive as well as functional. The internet had plenty of information on raised beds, and I learned that the typical frame was made of wood, but in our humid environment it would probably not last for more than a few years. Our Green Team had an epiphany scrolling through Pinterest when a beautiful picture of concrete blocks covered in mosaics popped up. The blocks were topped with a cap, and colorful tiles covered the surface creating shimmering works of art. Pastor Kandace was known for her beautiful mosaic work and lit up at the idea, and at that moment the Saint Paul’s Mosaic Garden was born.
|Squash plants basking in the sun in Saint Paul’s new Mosaic Garden.|
A flurry of activity began in order to get us ready for our big Creation Care Sunday garden planting. Each time we asked for volunteers, they faithfully came: singles, couples, and families spent their Saturday doing the hard and dirty work of pulling up sod and laying hundreds of blocks, and some Youth group boys moved bag after bag of soil to fill the beds one day after school. The Saturday before our big planting, our team went to the historic Gramlings Seed Store to buy plants (it was too late in the season to start from seeds) and Stan Gramling generously agreed to help us get the most for our money. It was fun picking out all the beautiful plants–and with tomatoes and basil, eggplant and peppers, squash and herbs–we were finally holding our garden in our hands.
On Creation Care Sunday, the church was full and Pastor Kandace led a beautiful worship service that focused on our connection to God’s earth, while calling us to be good stewards of all creation. We sang hymns like “All Creatures of Our God and King,” and during the Children’s Chat, kids of all ages gathered around her as she talked to them about using refillable water bottles instead of plastic ones (and to their delight she even promised to give them a dollar if she slipped.) The scripture reading was “The earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it” (Psalm 24) which was a beautiful reminder that caring for creation is deeply rooted in our Christian faith. In the sermon on the children’s book Old Turtle, Pastor Kandace shared our connection to God in the natural world, as colorful watercolor paintings from the book scrolled across the large screens behind her. (You can hear the sermon audio at www.saintpaulsumc.org.)
After the final prayer, she invited the entire service to walk down to join her in blessing the new Mosaic Garden, and as believers of all ages circled around to pray, I felt a new spiritual connection to that patch of earth that wasn’t there before. Certainly what grew here would be a blessing to those who tended the garden, as well as others in need who received the harvest. The enthusiasm continued as folks lined up to “Buy a Block” to support our garden fundraiser. There was such an atmosphere of joy and excitement as we shared stories about favorite heirloom tomato varieties, what bugs to watch out for, and the pure satisfaction that growing our own food brings. The garden became common ground that brought us together across generations and connected us with a new purpose, which was a blessing in itself.
After three similar services and lots of prayers, it was finally time to plant the garden. Moms, dads, kids, and grandparents all got their hands in the soil and began to plant tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, and herbs. Others grabbed shovels and prepared beds for pretty yellow, pink, and white blooming flowers on the edges of the garden to attract bees and butterflies. Soon everything was planted, and it was time to mulch with pine straw and then carefully water in each little plant. We stood back and admired how beautiful the garden looked, all leafy and green, and then celebrated over a pizza lunch in the church parlor where we shared our excitement for what we just accomplished.
Long after everyone was gone, I sat on the edge of the garden wall and my eyes filled with tears as I was overwhelmed with thanks to God. Thanks for all who brought the garden to life, for His nudge to follow my heart on this path, and for the hope of what was yet to come in the Mosaic Garden.