Why Every Church Should Have a Garden
Every church should have a garden. Why this odd little prescription? Because churches are sites of “religious” training. The word “religion” means “to bind back.” Anything religious is meant to bind humans back to the source of life: God. Gardening best drives this point home; gardening teaches that we are needy, life is mysterious, and the unexpected happens. These three lessons teach us much about faith.
First, we are needy. Growing food binds us to our food sources. By engaging the soil, seeds, weeds, and fruit, we learn what it takes to feed a family. Our dirty hands clean our imagination; we see beyond the illusion that food comes in boxes and cellophane wrappers. It comes from the earth; it is dirty. Food costs – to eat means that something has to die – this should humble us. Ultimately, growing food reminds us that food does not originate in a sterilized grocery store; we are dependent upon many variables for our daily survival. This lesson binds us back to the creation, of which we are members, and to the creator. Simply, gardening teaches grace.
Second, life is mysterious. Certainly, we know how things grow. Acutely aware that their persistent care can assist in a plant’s flourishing, even the best gardeners know that they can’t actually make a plant grow, yet alone live. We may understand how things live, but producing life is always beyond our grasp. All we can do is assist patiently by providing good conditions. This is religious training at its best. It’s here that we learn about our utter reliance on something else for our own flourishing.
Gardeners know that you cannot expect perfection. Just when you have taken the proper care to prepare the soil, companion plant, water and weed, a bunny may hop in and feed off your crops. The unexpected happens: hail falls, droughts parch, and hungry animals are always searching for a meal. The unexpected is out of our control. Good gardeners take precaution and learn from failures, and the best gardeners redeem these failures. Even when a plant dies, its life is given back to the soil to make it richer for the future. This profound truth teaches that all things can work together for good, especially for the gardener who faithfully loves what is under his or her care. It awakens the religious imagination. So if you want religious training, grow a garden.
And besides, have you ever eaten a garden fresh tomato?