How can a church respond to hunger – not only spiritual, but physical – in its community? In May 2013, a vision to transform an unused grassy lot at Central Heights Church, Abbotsford, B.C., into a community garden went from seed to sprout in a few short weeks.
It was planted when the monthly meeting of women’s ministry volunteer leaders and women’s pastor Rushia Klassen turned to a discussion of food security in the community.
Two weeks later, a quickly formed committee held its first meeting, crowned with prayer: that the garden would not only provide food, but also connection with the community; that it would be a place of learning and enrichment where people could see the heavenly Father at work.
Garden for growth
Upon receiving approval from the church leadership, Klassen invited contributions from local businesses. With generous donations from a landscaping company, seeds from a local nursery, and aged chicken manure from church elder/farmer Alan Suderman, volunteers produced 12 raised beds on the first workday.
The committee looked to other successful community gardens for guidelines on plot rental and policies.
Using the “lasagna” method of gardening, the beds feature layers of manure, cardboard, lime, topsoil, and wood chips for mulch directly on top of the grass.
Some months later, church members/carpenters Howard Dirks and Steve Dyck and a team of helpers enclosed the beds with wooden planks. Now the area looks more like a garden and less like a grave site.
Four beds were designated for the food bank operated by the church. Volunteers delight in adding a bag of fresh-picked lettuce, kale, beets or carrots to the canned and dried food. Because of the garden, families are introduced to new taste experiences with added nutrients to their diet.
Stone of serenity
The garden is easily visible from the road; there is much foot traffic through the area. It is not uncommon to see a person standing in front of the sign, meditating, praying, and reflecting on the verse written on a rock (1 Samuel 7:12).
In one such case, garden coordinator Nancy Klop spotted Wendy Richards enjoying the peace and tranquility of the garden. Klop invited her to join a women’s Bible study. Today, Richards volunteers at another women’s ministry.
Seniors living in the Central Heights Manor adjacent to the church have also taken an interest in the garden. These lifelong gardeners share their expertise with young enthusiasts, including neighbourhood children who subsequently came to Sunday school.
Fruits of their labour
One Central Heights women’s ministry has learned to make jam. The strawberry plants donated the first year now fill a bed, and raspberries grow vigorously along the fence. The women add jam to Christmas hampers or sell it to raise funds for church projects.
Today, the garden rents 36 beds for $30-$40 per year depending on size. This includes organic soil, compost, and the water supply.
Thanks to a generous donation, a chain-link fence surrounds the garden, decreasing the episodes of theft and vandalism. As with other community gardens, there is a waiting list.
The garden has fulfilled the original vision of connection to the community not only by providing food, but by fostering relationships as people learn together in the fresh air of God’s creation.
is a member of Central Heights Church, Abbotsford, B.C.
Updated April 9, 2019