Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to catch up with a friend in ministry that I had not spoken to in a couple of months for any length of time (other than to say, "Hey" or "Let's make a plan to get together!"). So, with a bit of time on my hands during a drive to a meeting-and using the hands free option on the car's Bluetooth-we took some time to share where our lives were and how things were going in our respective ministries.
In particular, I wanted to share the good news that the parish and our Community Development Corporation has just recently been awarded three 10x10 plots at a local Community Garden. The Garden was celebrating an anniversary, and was doing so by awarding plots to local charities. Our Community of Hope Ministries being one of them. What a grace! What work to do! Five volunteers showed up at the first session to clear out the weeds and attempt to turn the soil after the Garden leadership had generously done the hard work of the first tilling. Then, about nine other folks showed up to plant dozens of seedlings and transplants of cabbages, corn, beans, squash, pepper and tomato plants. Right now, we are in the process of coordinating the care of the plots (watering/weeding), and soon-God willing-the produce will be augmenting our Wednesday night Community Suppers as well as supplying fresh vegetables for the local Food Pantry.
I also spoke about our parish's commitment to ampleharvest.org and its challenge to gardeners to donate produce from their own gardens to food distribution sites in their local communities.
I confess to no small amount of excitement. I love working in the garden, growing food for the table...and to be able to link up that joy with the exercise of good stewardship of resources to the benefit of those who are hungry and in need is a double blessing. So much of church work is "up in the head" and many hours of my work time are spent behind a desk. I give thanks for the times I get to be out, with people visiting, working to get hungry people fed and the needs of people met. It keep my blood flowing and my body from puddling into a lump...and it hopefully makes the church and the world a better place to live in.
My friend pointed out at the end of this soliloquy that as she saw it, this has become a hallmark of my ministry. At my last parish, we started a community garden that grew food for a local soup kitchen and food bank. At the parish before that, I tried rather unsuccessfully to get a garden going-and learned how not to get things done in ways that have helped the latest efforts. In all these places, though, I have seen a growing sense of working to build up links between what we do with our hands and hearts to how we serve others. A little bit of sweat, and the willingness to give something that will grow and bear fruit inspires people...and inspired people are more joyful, keyed in and open to where God is wanting to lead them in life.
My thoughts today, as I made my way in from our own family garden to work, was two-fold. Soon, there will be tomatoes, peppers and perhaps even some squash. We will reduce our own food bill...and as well-perhaps even more importantly...we will be able to give some of those vegetables away. One for me and two for you...it really does make the food we grow taste better. Perhaps because life is sweeter?