It all began in a garden…Well sort of…
Just as St Andrew’s launched our next round of parish vision discernment (called ‘distilling’ since we’re named after the patron saint of Scotland) Covid hit. How could we have known that as the church and world began to shut down the Spirit was getting ready to move?
We distilled our way through the Covid months and heard God calling us to “‘Celebrate’ our Anglican Tradition, ‘Cultivate’ each one of us as disciples and leaders and ‘Connect’ in relationship with our wider community.” Just how literally the Spirit meant ‘cultivate’ we were about to learn.
Peter and Wendy, two organic farmers newly arrived from Atlantic Canada, came to worship on Zoom one Sunday, became part of our parish and soon offered their skills as ministry. We listened, prayed and then we risked: we connected with our local community and asked for land to cultivate and land was generously and graciously provided. Land was followed by a deer fence, access to water, manure, and a storage shed… then plants were donated, irrigation discounts offered, harvesting bins given…and so the learning and cultivating of the land, ourselves and our faith began! Who would have thought!
All ages came to work and learn in the farm-garden. Members of St. Andrews Installed 1,700’ of irrigation lines, gathered tools, provided seeds, and weeded our way through the spring and into a scorching dry summer. Families worked and learned from the land together: children blessed the seeds when they were sown, walked garden rows as a way to learn to pray and collected the seeds for next year’s crop from those first seeds. The Eucharist was celebrated in the farm-garden, the scriptures shared and by August other Anglicans from our central region had their hands in the soil. Working the soil and connecting in the kitchen with members of St. Michael’s as we washed fresh vegetables for their guests at ‘The Cupboard’ foodbank grew a wonderful partnership. Food is also provided to two local group homes, the Gospel Mission and a few households living with food insecurity. What is left each week, after giving veggies away, is offered to the parish by donation so we can buy seeds for next year. Peter and Wendy’s expertise has guided us through planting, hours and hours of weeding, composting, harvesting, processing produce for sharing, and weighing each harvest to a total of 1,300 pounds of organic food to date. As we have worked together to grow the garden, the garden has grown us. As a gardener from St. Michael’s said:
“I was struck with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what fertile soil and a garden tended with care will bring forth…But also, the garden fed the soul of every person graced with the opportunity to ‘work’ there. What grew were friendships, community partnerships and partnerships in faith, connectedness, and a deeply rooted sense of trust. God was present in every row as the garden grew, in the hands and on the faces of the farmers, and in the smiles and in the conversations as food was harvested and prepared for distribution. We were gifted with the opportunity to grow God’s kingdom, in community, in the Farm-Garden this summer.”
How could we have known! We knew enough to name the garden: “The Gift”.
As the winter cover crops settle into “The Gift” Farm-Garden to replenish and nourish the soil until spring, it’s time for us to do the same. The Spirit is cultivating the garden of our community life and calling us to live together in the most faithful and life-giving way possible. We are just starting to claim ourselves as a ‘Beloved community’, creating circles of ministry rather than committees and programs. This is a huge paradigm shift. Choosing the steady faithfulness of prayer, partnership and risk-taking rather than efficiency and productivity as the markers of success will take time. Inviting one another into discipleship rather than getting people to sign up for certain roles is a new way of thinking and being. This necessary winter work in the soil of our communal life beckons with soft persistence. “The Gift” Farm-Garden now waits until spring to see who we will be when we come again to greet and tend it.
There’s another story that began in a garden. Based on that story, which is our story, well… maybe we should have known. Or perhaps we knew just enough. Just enough to trust that, as the beautiful hymn phrases it, “Love is come again like wheat arising green.” Knowing, trusting in, and risking for the Risen Christ is really all that’s needed… along with some weeding.
Thanks be to God.
As we’ve cultivated the soil, we have cultivated our faith, our trust, and our deep roots in our local Mission community of St Andrews. We have experienced St. Andrews in Mission.
Reflecting on my time in the garden this summer, I was struck with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what fertile soil and a garden tended with care will bring forth.
The seeds were sown in the spring- time, and all summer long the garden yielded beautiful, healthy fresh food that fed those requiring food security.
But also, the garden fed the soul of every person graced with the opportunity to ‘work’ there.
What grew were friendships, community partnerships and partnerships in faith, connectedness, and a deeply rooted sense of trust. God was present in every row as the garden grew, in the hands and on the faces of the farmers, and in the smiles and in the conversations as food was harvested and prepared for distribution.
We were gifted with the opportunity to grow God’s kingdom, in community, in the Farm Garden this summer.
I have had the privilege of volunteer- ing at the farm this past summer through a partnership between Saint Andrew’s and Saint Michael’s Cathedral. As a long time (over 10 years) Outreach committee member and volunteer at Saint Michael’s Cathedral Cupboard, I am well aware of the need to support others in our community who do not have food security. The opportunity to participate and help work at the farm has been truly a gift not only to the clients from our cupboard but also to me personally. Clients eagerly wait till Fridays to gather the amazing produce that is given by the work of many hands. I am especially grateful for Peter and Wendy, the head gardeners who freely share their extensive organic gardening expertise with the whole team of gardeners.
The Gospel Mission Kelowna was so very grateful for the donation of fresh beans, carrots, tomatoes and lettuce from the St Andrew’s harvests. Lovely fresh salads and vegetable dishes were made for residents of the Gospel Mission and the Doyle Ave Shelter and also provided to the homeless via take-out containers handed out by the Gospel’s Outreach teams. Residents were so appreciative and their eyes would light up when they saw such appealing fresh and tasty produce on the line – and often followed by a mask muffled and heartfelt “God bless you! ” and “Could I have some more please?”
As for the veggie sorting/delivery role: The gratitude and appreciation by our community members in need was clearly evident in their delight at receiving de- livered produce every week by dedicated volunteers and family members of those at Felix House and their affiliated Group home. A huge card personally crafted and signed by those at Felix House was created for St Andrew’s and brought such joy to St Andrew’s parish…
Thank you for thinking of Trevor and Felix House for the community garden.
Your generosity has meant so much to Shelley and I. We got to share the joy and gratitude when we delivered the produce. The difference it made to both Felix House and Wallace House was evident every delivery we made. We are truly grateful for the church’s kindness.
—Shelley and Guy Cole
The ability to cook with fresh vegetables was outstanding. We enjoyed many healthy meals due to the generosity of the church. We are so grateful for everyone who was involved in this wonderful project. It allowed us to provide a variety of healthy meals utilizing the fresh produce provided. All the staff and residents were excited to look at the weekly donation
to decide what meals to cook. We look forward to the delivery each week with anticipation as to what vegetables we will have to work with.Thank you so very much
—Felix House and Wallace House
We as a board of directors were amazed at the generosity and consideration of St. Andrews Church in providing fresh vegetables for two of our homes. To be involved in this program was out- standing. This allowed us to provide healthy food choices for our staff and
the people we support. It helped to curb our food budget in the homes as well as providing the freshest produce in meal preparations. We are thankful and so appreciative.
Board of Directors
Lifestyle Equity Society
—Guy Cole, President