This year AOA was proud to partner in a month of prayer and action with Season of Creation, a movement uniting churches around the world to celebrate, listen and respond together to protect our common home.
We were excited to learn how a disused carpark at St John’s Anglican Church in Heidelberg has been turned into a flourishing community garden, demonstrating how a church can steward God’s creation and bring a community together.
“One of our members had seen a cathedral overseas with vegetables growing around the building and the produce was used to supply food for those in need," explains Katrina Philip, Coordinator of the community garden. "We thought it would be a lovely idea if we could use the church grounds to grow food and share it with the surrounding community.”
Since its inception in 2014, the garden has become much more than a place to grow food.
“The carpark area is now full of garden beds and fruit trees and we have spilt over onto one of the adjacent tennis courts," adds Katrina. "It now includes a team making compost using ShareWaste (food scraps) from nearby residents, a hot house for plant propagation, gardening workshops and The Beekeepers Club.”
The Beekeeper’s Club, which has its training hives on site at St John's, is one of the largest recreational beekeeping clubs in Australia and complements the garden perfectly. The bees enjoy the pollen and nectar from the plants and in the process pollinate the fruit and vegetables, ensuring they are better quality and have more variety.
The club has also ensured that the surrounds are a restful space for anyone who cares to drop in, with hundreds of visitors each day walking through the gardens during COVID lockdowns. “There are small outdoor table settings scattered around (acquired from discards on nature strips) where people can relax and chat with their friends, as well as various art installations to enjoy.” Within the gardens also sits a gazebo with a piano for anyone to play, something Katrina delights in hearing when she is working there.
St John’s Anglican Church resides on the edge of Salt Creek, a dynamic wildlife corridor that joins the nearby Yarra River and is close to an ancient meeting place of the Wurundjeri people. Katrina explains that in establishing the community garden they consulted with Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung representatives, who affirmed their plans to remove all woody weeds and undertake an extensive indigenous revegetation planting project.
When asked why it is important as followers of Christ to care for Creation, Katrina responds: “God exhorts us to cultivate and care for the environment and be good stewards of it. This is a way of respecting God and the beautiful world he has given us.”
"God's peace and blessing is very evident in the garden. I always leave feeling I have been given more than I came with - a quiet generosity of creation," concludes Katrina.
Katrina and her team show no signs of slowing down, and in 2022 they received a Queen’s Jubilee Tree Canopy Grant to plant trees that grow to more than two metres.
Suggestions for churches wanting to begin a community garden:
- Work as a team. It’s been great partnering with the local community
- Take a caring interest in members who join the garden - we have been there for many as they have faced terminal illnesses or stressful situations
- Encourage people to try new gardening skills
- Have a garden charter written and available.
- Make the most of local government gardening/ sustainability sponsored lessons.