by Clarice Wong
The idea of establishing a BLC garden sprouted in late 2014. The idea was to create a space for members to spend time beyond the four walls, and to explore how to integrate a garden into a worship space. It was an experimental project, blessed by the church council.
The garden plays a few roles in BLC. It’s a space for growing food – edible plants like curry leaves, bunga kantan, brinjals, lemongrass, and many more. Our chili padi is popular among cooks. Leaves are harvested for stir frying; chilis are turned into sambals and pickles. And ulams like ulam raja, mint, stevia are the favourite go-to herbs of some BLCians.
It’s a learning ground. Kids can touch and feel the different shapes and aromas of the plants. And occasionally discover worms and bugs from the ground and leaves!
Adults also find in the garden a new space to explore. What’s the name of this plant? How can I grow this in my own home? Oh, I didn’t know we can eat this!
There was a compost bin in the garden. It was built by Karl and a few strong hands. Every week, keen members would bring over kitchen waste to contribute. It was a learning process for everyone. What can be put into the bin and what happens to the waste after that? Composting is a good way to manage food waste.
Christine Sine, co-founder of Mustard Seed Association with her husband Tom, says:
The garden is not just a place to grow food. It is a way to express our faith and interact with God and God’s good creation. Perhaps one reason God created human beings to tend the garden is because God knew that it is in a garden that we connect most intimately to the character and ways of our Creator.Christine Sine
Some of us may not feel at ease in the garden. It may feel foreign, as if “reserved for those with green fingers.”
What if the garden is like a church which welcomes everyone, people at different stages of life?
Sometimes you can be just an observer. Let the butterflies and bees entertain you. They are here to pollinate flowers and a lot of the food that we eat.
Sometimes, you can be a gardener. You turn the soil, feed the plants, and water them.
Sometimes, you can help turn the compost pile to allow more oxygen to flow through, so that it becomes fertilizer.
Sometimes, you can be a visitor – the plants are laid out with much thought to make sure you can walk the paths safely and not miss the beauties.
Ultimately, the garden can be a sacred place for us. It’s not just a place to host plants and trees. It carries the weight of all of God’s creation. So, we ask ourselves, “what’s the importance of a garden for a church?”
The garden teaches us to be more mindful. Sue Stuart-Smith, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, learned that caring for plants is intrinsically a mindful activity, whereas care that is carried out in an inattentive or mindless way is not true care.
The garden is available to each of us. There is no need to master gardening skills before entering the garden. Just focus on any plant which catches your attention.
In her book, The Well Gardened Mind, Stuart-Smith writes that to practice true care means becoming receptive to another as we tune in and focus on the needs of someone or something outside ourselves. This is also how we relate to each other in the community of the church. Caring for someone can be part of the sacred act.
My own journey with the BLC garden started with sharing my gardening journey with the church. It was a good time for me to connect with old and new members of the church through working together – in the pantry; building vegetable beds; planting new species – and witnessing growth including the growth of the trees in the front yard.
I’m grateful for everyone who’s been involved in the progress of the BLC garden since the beginning, especially Suzanne who tends the garden routinely to make sure all the plants are healthy and blossoming. I hope the garden will continue to be a safe space for everyone who walks through.
Do look at it, walk in it and even get your hands dirty!
Outdoors we are confronted everywhere with wonders; we see that the miraculous is not extraordinary, but the common mode of existence. It is our daily bread.Wendell Berry
1 thought on “The story of the Father’s garden”
That is so beautifully expressed by Clarice.
The beautiful union in the garden is truly like the Body of Christ – where everyone is unique and yet only when we are together makes a beautiful and whole picture. It’s incomplete without the plant that thinks of itself as invisible yet is so brilliantly alive and relevant in existence both in the eyes and life of its surrounding fauna and flora. Every heart matters. May we always be a family that protect this safe space to learn, to converse freely our thoughts and questions from our hearts, to wriggle or dance, to laugh, to weep, to rage, to fear and be encouraged in our union with our Lord and unity with one another in our differences as Paul says described in Ephesians:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
Ephesians 4:4-6 NKJV
May we find the courage and willingness by the Holy Spirit’s help to love as the Lord loves, and accept each other as the Lord accepts us that we may all grow up in Him into a mature and beautiful garden, able to be His refuge for others.