An excerpt from ‘Into the Garden’ – Cultivation as a tool for spiritual formation and community renewal, authored by Rachel Woods and published by Grove Books 2016
Chapter 1: Into the Garden
Aspects of cultivation and the language of gardens are being re-appropriated as ‘sacramental’ tools for effective evangelism, discipleship, pastoral care and spiritual formation. Christian leaders and others recognise the complex cumulative effects of physical and spiritual disconnection from our agrarian roots upon humanity and creation, and upon our relationship with God. For example: A working farm is integral to a new Anglican church being established on a minster model1 in London’s green belt; Outdoor church is gaining momentum and church-run allotments are becoming more popular as tools for community building and evangelism; Rehabilitative gardening initiatives are growing in number; Cultivation of gardens alongside creation care are common features of new monastic communities; and Rogation as a seasonal celebration has been reintroduced within a high security category B prison community. Through obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit, people in churches, chaplaincies, missional communities and Christian organisations are reaching out to our fragmented, distracted, secular society in fresh ways and ministering into the hearts and lives of the spiritually hungry.
Farmers and gardeners would agree that the task of creating a beautiful or productive garden is a ‘labour of love’, the fruit of constant battle with poor soil quality, diseases, and pests, weeds, invasive plants, changing seasons and weather patterns. Faith is exercised through planting a seed into soil, watering it and hoping that it will bear fruit. Synonymous with the work of cultivating plants for food or pleasure, humanity has since the earliest times drawn upon the endless metaphors offered by seasonal cycles and processes in nature to help make sense of the physical and spiritual journey from conception, to birth, life and death. Cultivating the soil, creation care and creativity are foundational to God’s covenant with humanity. God, the planter, designed this interrelationship when he brought into being the earth that is our home. To purchase a copy of this booklet click here