Planting a seed of hope
In the coming months, Hope Uniting Church in Sydney’s coastal suburb of Maroubra will launch an exciting new project—a community permaculture garden. Matt Anslow shares his story about how a community garden is bringing people together.
Community concern about environmental sustainability is growing in Maroubra no thanks to the rise of unit blocks. Not content with sitting back and letting the walls build up around them, Matt Anslow and his wife Ashlee decided to venture into a community garden project.
“We’re just a young married couple passionate about gardening and creation care. When we recently began attending the congregation, we recognised the potential for a community garden on the church property. We worked with others in the congregation to work on the idea, find funding, and develop an architectural plan and secure council approval”, said Matt.
Working toward a community garden was not a matter of simply trying to help the church grow food or be sustainable. Nor was the idea a way of trying to appear relevant to the local community or attract people to the church. For Hope Uniting Church, this garden project represents an expression of what it means to really be the church.
“It is not enough for Christians to do things like start up community gardens in response to issues like climate change. The biblical story tells of a good world created by God, a world which humankind is created to care for. The church is meant to be people who imagine and embody such a way of life. Our attitudes, habits and practices shaped to reflect God’s love and care of all creation.
“More practically, our community garden is a way for us to draw together people in our wider community as an expression of the fact that human life is richer, more beautiful and more God-filled when we take the time to experience life with each other. Gardening will also form us into more Christ-like people since it requires faithfulness, hard work and patience”, states Matt.
How does your garden grow?
While living at the Centre for Ministry, I planted a garden for the first time in my adult life. The earthiness of stories about God came to mind as I prepared the ground for planting. I remembered the creation story where God moulded mud and breathed life into the nostrils of the first human being. I dug, weeded, and lovingly placed tiny seedlings. The surprise of the reign-of-God appearing in unexpected ways and places was seen in a lush crop of self-seeded tomatoes, presumably growing out of the home-made compost my neighbour had strewn. The crop and its accompanying joy were plentiful.
I have returned to life in an apartment. No more garden beds for me. Except that now, my congregation is embarking on the adventure of a community garden. It is a congregation with a rich history of care with the environment. Project Green Church began its life here. It involved car sharing, grey water systems for student accommodation and the installation of solar panels.
Imagine…a place of tranquillity for workers in the middle of a busy day.
Imagine…raised garden beds that even elderly people can tend while gossiping together, mingling with a parents’ group drinking coffee with noisy toddlers admiring the chickens, and helped by the uni students from our community house.
Imagine…many languages shared through weeding, watering, sowing and harvesting food that can nourish dinner tables and conversation that builds relationships and community.
Imagine what might grow from a small, grassy patch at the front of our building.
Rev. Bec Lindsay, Congregational Development Minister, Hope Uniting Church Maroubra.
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