By Rev. Alicia Randolph Rapking
Parish House Director
I have been thinking about gardens a lot lately. Over Memorial Day weekend, I usually try to plant our garden. I look forward to this time every year. It is a time of working in partnership with God to raise food for the family. It is a time to marvel at the dirt and realize just what kinds of nutrients and mystery the dirt possesses to be able to surround a seed and give it what it needs to begin growing.
It is a time to be thankful again for the cooperation of the sun and rain and dirt and seed or plants that work together over a few weeks to produce the perfect ripe, red tomato that tastes so amazing on a hot July day. It is a time to think about the future, of what will come forth from a little patch of ground weeks down the road. It is a time to think about sharing from the bounty of this small patch of earth.
I was thinking about all of this sacred garden mystery on this past Friday afternoon as Dr. Marvin Carr, Morgan Downing, our summer intern in food ministries, my daughter Grace, and I began planting a garden where, as far as I know, a garden has never been. We are planting a community garden behind the old Adrian United Methodist Church.
The church closed last June and the property was deeded to the Upshur Cooperative Parish. For decades this Methodist congregation has been a strong witness for Christ in the Adrian community and surrounding areas. Many, many people have come to know the love of Christ through this congregation. Many, many people have been helped by the faith and determination of this congregation. Many, many pastors in our Annual Conference have been nurtured and loved by this congregation. Many, many families have witnessed baptisms, marriages, and funerals, passages in life's journey surrounded by the love and support of this congregation. This congregation has been a blessing to so many people and to God for a long time.
When the church building closed last June, there was sadness, of course. It is difficult to say goodbye to something that held so many memories and was such an important place in so many people's lives. I know that God has plans for this space. God is not finished with the church or the community. There is much ministry yet to be in this space and in this community. It will be creative ministry from and through the presence of a creative and loving God and I am certain that we will be amazed.
All throughout the cold, dreary, snowy winter that we had, I have been thinking and praying about what could happen in this sacred, Adrian space. My husband Gary pastored the charge from 1987-1989 and we were the last people that lived in the parsonage before it was torn down. When we lived there I wanted to have a garden behind the church, and one summer I did plant tomatoes, but I put them in too late and we had an early frost. I had a great crop of green tomatoes that year. I have never forgotten the idea for a garden growing in this space.
This past Friday, I was so excited to be a part of the planting team because in a way I feel like my vision of having a garden on this sacred, Adrian place, is taking place. Thanks to John Gay and Bill Wilson, a small portion of the field behind the church was plowed and prepared a few weeks ago. Thanks to George Lemons, Roy Mick, Ken Harvey, and Morgan Downing an electric fence was built around the garden. Then, this past Friday, the planting team began to plant this wonderful, sacred space.
I was reminded of the passage from Exodus 23:10: "For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yields; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat." This commandment was given to ensure against overexploitation of resources and loss of agricultural productivity and also to remind the community that everyone was to be included in the abundance of God's gifts. By lying fallow the fields would produce voluntarily and that produce would be available to those who have very little. Throughout the Scriptures there are many teachings of God's justice, caring for, and reaching out to those in need. This way of life is a reflection of loving one another and living in stewardship with God and the earth.
The sacred Adrian space, where the garden has been placed, has been living in the opposite of this passage of scripture. It has been fallow far too long. Now it is time for the land to remember that it has gifts to produce abundantly. It is time for the soil and the sun and the rain and the seeds and plants to work together to produce tomatoes and cucumbers, beans and squash, and other vegetables to help feed people. This summer, this precious land of God is fallow no more.
It is also time for the people of God to come forward and volunteer a few hours several times this summer to work in partnership with God and God's people to tend this sacred, garden space. If you would like to get your hands dirty and offer a little time to this project, please contact Morgan Downing at the Parish House, 304-472-0743.
There will be times of celebration this summer and we will invite all who have worked in the garden and the whole community together to receive the bounty of this gift of the garden. I am looking forward to the fulfillment of this dream of mine from so long ago. I am looking forward to seeing what God will do that I have not yet envisioned.
To God be the glory!
On the parish calendar: Mission trip. Upshur Helping Hands Work Team will travel to McDowell County, SundaySaturday, June 1521. Ages 9th grade through adult are welcome! If you would like to join the mission, contact Cheryl Reger at firstname.lastname@example.org, Barb Loftis at email@example.com, or Mark Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Pentecost Picnic and Sing, Sunday, June 1: picnic, 5 p.m., Holly River SP, followed by sing, Jerry Run Theatre, 1 mile north of park on Rte. 20.
- Life Line Screening, Friday, June 6, Chapel Hill UMC.
- Clean-up at Adrian building, Sunday, June 8, 4 p.m., followed by bonfire.
- Annual Conference, Wednesday-Sunday, June 11-15, West Virginia
- Salad lunches, Thursday-Saturday, June 12-14, The Parish House.
- Upshur Helping Hands Barbecue, Thursday, June 12, evening meal, The Parish House.
- Workshop of Wonders, Vacation Bible. School, Monday through Friday, June 16-20, 6-8:30 p.m. Chapel Hill UMC.
Pool Party, Sunday, June 22, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Chapel Hill UMC
Church Picnic / VBS Kick-Off, Sunday, June 22, First UMC. Gather for fellowship, 4 p.m.; meal, 5 p.m.
Wilderness Escape, Vacation Bible School, MondayThursday, June 23-27, 6-8 p.m., First UMC. Light supper served at 5:30 p.m. Learn from the Bible hero Moses where God guides and provides.
Parish Council meeting, 5 p.m., The Parish House
Summer Youth Celebration, MondayFriday, June 2327, WV Wesleyan
Mission U, United Methodist Women, TuesdayThursday, July 24-26, WV Wesleyan