Are Community Gardens the Next Wave of Involvement for Churches?

Grasswidow1web 

picture: Grass Widow or Satin Flower taken near Liberty Lake last weekend.

Plans for the Pumpkin Patch Community Garden are coming together. We've got soil and lumber and irrigation installation all donated. We've got a growing band of volunteers eager to dig dirt on April 10 at 9am for our first official work day. We even have a Tweetup flash mob sort of thing in the works for the work day. You can follow the progress on Twitter and fan us on Facebook if you like.

I have been in conversations about the community garden in the west valley of Spokane for over a year but I always imagined it as something I would pursue in my personal time, as opposed to bringing it into the fold of what we do at the church I pastor. But somehow it has come together for the church to be one of the key community partners in facilitating the garden. (Emphasis on "one of." It's going to take a whole community effort for something like this to work.)

As our church has come alongside others to help facilitate this vision for our community I've become more aware of how churches seem to be embracing community gardens as an area of involvement both locally and around the country.

In Spokane there are several projects where churches play a role;

  • Vinegar Flats, a program of St. Margarets Womens and Children's Shelter.
  • Riverfront Farms, a program of Project Hope with churches and faith groups playing a key role.
  • Holy Trinity Episcopal Church Community Garden
  • All Saints Lutheran Community Garden in Brown's Addition
  • The Porch Garden project
  • East Valley Presbyterian has also hosted a community garden
  • The Salvation Army is also launching a community garden this summer

It seems like I hear about this kind of faith community involvement bubbling up all over. Christine Sine over in Seattle has actually developed a seminar on the Spirituality of Gardening and will be giving the seminar in a couple of weeks to people from churches that are endeavoring to start gardens. She has a post up on starting a faith-based community garden that has some good information.

I was intrigued by her link to the blog Sparks in the Soil, written by Holly Lebowitz Rossi. She describes her blog project as inspired by an experience of a church that started a community garden;

Last summer, I wrote an article about an evangelical church in Boise, Idaho that grew more than 20,000 pounds of food in one season on less than a half acre of land. My research got me thinking, what would happen if every house of worship in America grew food in some form?  Let’s find out.

It sounds like she's wondering if this could be a next wave of involvement for churches. We have our worship services, our children's and youth programs, and....our community gardens. Sounds good to me. I've written at length lamenting the sacred/secular, spirit/material divide that in my view stymies the mission of the church. This kind of involvement is a hopeful way of disrupting that divide.