Sowing seeds of hope and faith
In the heart of Lancaster city, children at Saint James Episcopal Church grow vegetables in small garden plots located on the northeast corner of our campus. The project began a few years ago and continues to expand. The children engage in each step of the process. Small hands eagerly prepare the ground, sow the seeds and plants, pray for God’s blessing, water, weed and harvest. There may be the occasional taste-testing, too!
For the past two summers, our children have offered the harvest to the Lancaster County Council of Churches Food Hub as a way of providing fresh, local produce to those who are hungry in our community. Over the two summers we provided about 150 pounds of yellow squash, cucumbers, bell peppers, hot peppers, eggplants, green beans, tomatoes and cherry tomatoes to the Food Hub.
Godly Play materials (such as the parable of the sower and the parable of the mustard seed), along with Episcopal Relief and Development’s Abundant Life Garden Project curriculum, give substance to our gardening. Our reflection during Children’s Chapel time provides the space to find meaning and make connections in our practice and in the sacred stories, and to situate our humble offering to our local community within the global context of food insecurity and poverty.
We also recognize the complexity of the food web. To this end Saint James children began a woodland wildlife garden on Pentecost 2017, located next to the vegetable garden plots. More than two dozen of our youngest parishioners planted nine native plants in hopes of cooperating with the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work of renewing and sustaining creation.
A local naturalist helped the children understand how native plants are the base of the food web as they capture the sun’s energy and nourish tiny insects and wildlife. Turtlehead, for instance, provides nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds and is a larvae host for the endangered Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly. Its large blooms add a splash of purple to the autumn woodland garden area and allow parishioners and passersby of all ages to observe the plant’s role in supporting the local food web.
Our efforts in the middle of Lancaster city, in truth, are modest and somewhat symbolic. A few vegetables and some native plants do not solve food insecurity. Nevertheless, the children’s small practice each summer prophetically witnesses to the promotion of life and its flourishing, particularly among the hungry, while planting the spiritual seeds within them of the interconnectivity of life.