We’ve all heard of United Methodist Men and United Methodist Women, but soon, there’ll be a new “faith” group in South Lakeland: United Methodist bees.
It’s thanks to the efforts of Shepherd’s UMC, which last year received a grant for equipment, education, and funding to create a beehive “community.” It serves environmental and educational purposes for the children and families of the congregation and the larger community.
“We appreciate what we’ve been given, and we want to give back and share with the community,” said Gretchen Ceranic, children and family coordinator at the church.
Ceranic spearheaded the effort to get this idea off the ground, although she’s never been a beekeeper before.
She applied to the Whole Kids Foundation Honey Bee Grant program, and although she described the church’s chances of getting it “a long, long shot,” she said, “We are tickled pink about this.”
The church has a 10-acre land resource area including a large wooded field and a retention pond. They also have willing church member/beekeepers and a nearby “bee mentor” who is also a United Methodist.
“We must take the initiative as Christians to care for others, and that includes plants and animals,” she said.
The grant will provide for beekeeping equipment, a consultation on safety, and use of the hive and funds for upkeep, such as a beekeeper suit. Ceranic approached Bert Kelley of Kelley’s Apiaries LLC Bee Company near the church to be a mentor and discovered he was a member of Temple UMC.
“I can’t say no,” was his answer.
A church committee of five, including Ceranic and senior pastor Pam Everhart, will oversee the project. It will include a bee safety plan and location a safe distance from the church building, with signs clearly marking the bees’ domain.
Ceranic ultimately hopes to expand this project, maybe to include a community garden and classes at the local elementary school. The church’s children ministry will benefit the some 60 to 75 kids in Vacation Bible School and 40 in regular attendance.
The beehive and other parts of the grant likely will not arrive until February, so until then, the church will keep moving forward to get ready.
The church will receive a top bar observation beehive, which is the oldest type of beehive since ancient Greece and the most common worldwide. In addition to providing a learning experience, the beehive will bear witness to the UMC. Ceranic plans to adorn the hive structure with a “tiny little cross and flame.”
Ultimately, Shepherd’s effort will provide a safe home for bees, which as most people are aware, have been in decline for some time and are critical to the environment.
“We are so excited to bring bees to our land and to offer this opportunity to our church and community,” Everhart said. “We are thankful for Gretchen’s commitment to see this through and to the Bee Project for choosing us.”
—Anne Dukes is a freelance writer based in Decatur, GA.