I write a short blog for the Epsom Common Allotments Association Newsletter. It is a monthly comment on what we should be getting on with! To be honest, I know my limitations which are many, and I copy and paste some very good advice from the Royal Horticultural Society (with appropriate referencing!). I add to it something of the struggles and successes that Judith and I have, and some of the projects we are undertaking. I never fail to notice that I could be writing something very similar for the Methodist Church’s Facebook page for ministers in circuit. Ministry has a similar seasonal rhythm with regular things to do at particular times of year. We count in October, plan for Christmas in October, think ahead in December, and get ready for all sorts in January. Gardening and ministry are very similar activities and have happily taken up the greater part of my life.
Like gardening you can’t make anything in ministry grow all on your own. You can dig, and rake, sow and water, manure and weed and generally be busy, but as the harvest hymn goes, ‘We plough the fields, and scatter the good seed on the land, but it is fed and watered by God's almighty hand’. Gardening and ministry are both collaborations with the divine, and in any given season there will be some things that go better than others. In both it is often the ordinary and every day kind of activities that make the biggest differences in the long run.
So if I were to write a November/December kind of ministry gardening blog for Epsom Methodist Church I might want to suggest some gardening metaphors. For a start, it is always good to look after the soil and this requires a deal of effort and forethought. Healthy soil will look after the plants. It will provide plenty of root room, nutrients, moisture, security and warmth. Healthy soil often comes from difficult or even unattractive things; clay can be the basis of some of the best soils, frost can soften and break down the hardest and most claggy of soils, and plenty of well-rotted manure does it all a world of good. It is also a good idea in gardening to think ahead and assume things will grow. You shouldn’t therefore plant little plants too close together, or sow seeds too thickly; instead, imagine what they would look like if they do germinate, flourish and mature. My own favorite key to gardening is to look. If you don’t look at your garden from one week to the next it will slowly disintegrate. Instead, observe the seasons and the weather, the flourishing and the struggling and act sooner rather than later! A small weed pulled early will save you much time and trouble!
Now that is quite enough of my metaphor. It never does simply to translate a metaphor word for word and ask, ‘What is the soil?’ or what exactly, theologically speaking is manure! But somewhere in that image lie helpful things. We can’t make our church grow. We can’t manufacture a sense of awe and wonder in worship. We can’t change our hearts to resonate with the divine love that seeks our efforts in changing the world. But we can do those things in our own lives and in the life of the Church that encourages healthiness! To be ‘healthy soil’! We can imagine what it would be like if God’s will was being done. We can act now with patience and perseverance, perhaps especially in winter time.
So to finish a rather late harvest hymn by the great cricket commentator John Arlott
God, whose farm is all creation, take the gratitude we give; take the finest of our harvest, crops we grow that all may live.
Take our ploughing, seeding, reaping, hopes and fears of sun and rain, all our thinking, planning, waiting, ripening into fruit and grain.
All our labour, all our watching, all our calendar of care, in these crops of your creation, take, O God: they are our prayer.
Harvey Morris, who has served as Senior Steward for the last two and a half years, has intimated his decision to resign from the Church Stewards’ team. This is Harvey’s second term of office on the Leadership Team and we have greatly appreciated his commitment and leadership. Harvey has recently moved house and with promotion at work and his role as a governor at Epsom Primary School and other school committee responsibilities, feels he can no longer devote the amount of time he would like to offer to the team. We wish him well and thank him for all his work.