Growing Community

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by Heather Heinzman*

2.jpgA few years ago, Highland United Methodist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina was contemplating using a portion of their precious green space to expand the parking for crowded Sunday mornings and highly attended special events. At certain times of the morning, a parking spot could not be found, and people were forced to park up and down the streets bordering the property. But was this really the best use for the land?

Highland UMC had hosted a weekday English as a Second Language (ESL) program for several years, and as some of the church leadership began connecting with the staff and students, a greater use for the proposed parking lot emerged—a community garden. Many of the students came from agricultural areas and not only missed farming the land, but could not afford to buy fresh, healthy produce at the grocery store. After gaining support from the congregation, including a member with a background in agriculture who agreed to head up the project, the Highland Victory Garden was born.

The results from the garden far exceeded expectations. Not only were church members and ESL students working side-by-side in the dirt, other residents in the community volunteered and joined in the effort. The garden also became a place of refuge. People driving by would stop to spend a moment on one of the benches interspersed between the beds, and family members of patients at the nearby hospital would come to the garden for some quiet time away from their loved one’s bedside.

Within a year, the Highland Victory Garden produced enough food to not only feed those who regularly worked in the garden, but provided hundreds of pounds of fresh, healthy food for the local food bank. As churches and community groups were inspired by the garden, at least forty other gardens were also started in the area.

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Questions for Discussion

• How are your church’s resources utilized? Are you building bigger barns or seeking to use your resources to meet needs in the community?
• How is your congregation intentionally building relationships with its neighbors, particularly those who are the most vulnerable?
• Are you aware of the needs and hopes of your neighbors? What are you currently doing to be Christ’s hands and feet to bring hope?

*Heather Heinzman Lear is Director of Evangelism Ministries at GBOD. She can be reached at hlear@gbod.org. You can read more about the Highland Victory Garden at http://www.highlandumc.org.

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About Romans 12 | Romans 12 is a project of the General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church to communicate effective principles and practices demonstrated by congregations that are actively making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

These congregations are marked by:
– Clarity around the mission and vision of the congregation.
– Practice of spiritual disciplines, both corporately and individually.
– Nurture of growth in discipleship through mutual support and accountability.
– Cultivation of intentional and mutual relationships with the most vulnerable–the poor, children, the imprisoned, the powerless.
– Consistent concern for inviting people into relationship with Jesus Christ, combined with wise practices for initiating them into the Body of Christ.
– Connectional relationships that facilitate participation in God’s mission of global transformation.
– Shared clergy and lay leadership.

Romans 12 Newsletter. Issue #174 © 2013 GBOD. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to copy this newsletter for use in United Methodist congregations. This newsletter is provided as a service of the General Board of Discipleship and is funded through World Service apportionment giving by local United Methodist congregations.To subscribe or discontinue a subscription contact Deb Smith at dsmith@gbod.org. For previous issues of the newsletter go to www.gbod.org/Romans12

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