“Garden Church is different, and it provides a different space to be in God’s presence”
St Timothy’s in Crookes runs Garden Church; a community sharing fellowship through gardening, shared food and worship.
Small groups are run throughout the week and the team also help to care for the Lower Walkley Community Garden.
Rachel Crossley, the lay lead of Garden Church, explains how it first came about:
“We did a sermon series on the Five Marks of Mission, and at the end of one which focused on looking after creation I thought about all the forest schools in Sheffield. I thought ‘why not do a forest church?’ I was told that that’s a thing, so I did a lot of research.
“At a similar time, my friend Alex told me she had been thinking about people who would be open to church, but wouldn’t come because they’re busy on the allotments. Those two things resulted in me doing lots of reading, and after a few conversations I thought ‘could we set up a Garden Church?’ And it sort of snowballed from there”.
Garden Church launched in March of this year after months of preparation, and the team still links up with the Sheffield Forest Church.
Rachel says the events help people to reflect on creation, as well as hopefully encouraging them to do more to protect the planet:
“There is an aspect of connecting with nature; being out in nature helps us to appreciate it and understand its value. There is that environmental aspect and giving back rather than drawing away resources. The biggest sort of challenge that we often have in terms of environmental impact and money is our buildings, but it was also about embodying the gospel for me.
“It had to be a plot that was a little derelict and needed some love, and it was something about going and visibly being able to transform it. We have this hope of renewal that God is going to do things and change things; building a community around hope and renewal is important.
“We had various obstacles to overcome, but people seem to get it. There’s a sense that we want some sort of community, and a connection between God and being outdoors. The first part of working towards reducing our impact on creation is to build up an appreciation of it, and to understand its beauty. We want to encourage the balance of all the different people in that ecosystem on the allotment”.
Rachel says Garden Church is for all ages, and can appeal to people in different ways:
“Kids are much better at being outdoors than we are; they naturally find wonder. It’s using those little moments when they say things like ‘wow, I’ve found a worm!’ to have conversations. For people that are older it’s a sense of peace and a stepping out from the hustle and bustle of life. It’s giving them breathing space and an opportunity to connect with God.
“The advice I’d have to other congregations thinking about doing something similar is to go for it! In a sense it’s very easy as there are minimal things to worry about. We always gather at the start and have a bit of a quiet moment, and pause at some point during it; we invite people to share what they’re thinking about or have seen. Minimal resources are needed. It’s got potential to grow quite organically, and it’s just responding to what’s there. There are people who need it, and we want to spread the word more.
“It’s different and it provides a different space to be in God’s presence”.
You can find out more about Garden Church and their latest events here.
Rachel and the team are working towards the six criteria of a New Congregation: worship (UP), fellowship (IN), outreach (OUT), reaching new people, raising new leaders and offering the sacraments. Therefore, we are delighted to welcome them as our 12th New Congregation.
If you want to find out more about starting new things generally, or a New Congregation in particular, contact email@example.com