A Note from The Garden Church Board

Hello lovely Garden Church supporters!
Yes, the Garden Church has a board of directors! And we wanted to tell you from our perspective where we are and where we are going.

First off, as board members, we would be remiss if we did not ask you to June 17 7donate money to this amazing upstart church plant. We are not hiding the ball here—we will ask you for money! But first, we want to let you know how generous people have been, and how abundantly blessed we have felt, due to your past and present support. Then we will tell you what the gap is, and then we will ask you to help us fill that gap.

1. Abundant Blessings
We are going to throw some numbers at you. Ready? OK—go!

The Garden Church has raised 80% of its very ambitious Year 1 budget to date. 80%!

We also have the following astounding numbers to report:

8… Ultra amazing board members on this start-up   team
4… Super duper angel donors jump-started our capacity
9… Cultivation team churches & sister churches cheer us on in solidarity

3… Denominational grants give us resources, validation, and credibility

OK, now for the really impressive numbers because these are about you all:

32… Cultivation team pledges give us faith and remind us of abundant possibility

97… Cultivation team donors make us feel loved, blessed, and abundantly grateful

2. The Gap

June 17 8Remember when I told you we had already raised 80% of our budget to date? Well, for those of you who are great at math, you already know that means we have not raised 20%, or 1/5 of our annual budget.

This is partly because we have not yet been able to hire someone to pursue support from foundations, which we had planned on doing. But it is also because we are ambitious and we set tough goals for ourselves because we want this Garden Church plant to succeed. And in order to succeed, we do need some money.

So, we still need to raise about $25,000 to make our budget. Will you help?

3. The Ask
Please consider upping your monthly donation, or giving another “one-time” donation, keeping in mind that we will ask you again until you tell us to stop!

June 18 1

If you or someone you know is a great, successful, experienced grant-writer and wants to dedicate 5-10 hours a week to helping us pursue grant opportunities, please let us know! We need you! This is a significant volunteer job, we realize. But we have to ask or we won’t know what we missed out on!

We love you all. And we couldn’t make this Garden Church happen without your help and God’s continued blessings. So please, be God’s shepherd and help us take it to the next level.

With love and gratitude,
The Garden Church Board of Directors

Jana Carter
Rebecca Esterson
Katherine Green
Jennifer Lindsay
Emma Ogley-Oliver
Amy Gall Ritchie
Nancy Richardson
Jane Siebert
Anna Woofenden 
Give monthly: https://www.razoo.com/story/The-Garden-Church-Fund
Or one time: https://www.razoo.com/story/Pop-Up-The-Garden-Church

Stories from The Garden Church, June 2015

Dear Friends,

I crouch down next to Sage, a little girl about four years old, who’s just come in through the gate with her parents and baby brother.

“Do you want to plant something?” I ask. Like the dozen or so kids I’ve asked the same question to in the last hour, her face lights up and she says, “Yes please!” “I know just what we should plant—your namesake plant” and I pulled a packet of Kitchen Sage seeds out of my back pocket and proceed to show her how to make a little hole, put the seed in, cover it up with dirt “like a cozy blanket” and then proceed with the favorite job of watering. This little girl, like many of the people who June 17 12walk through our gates, had never planted a seed before, lives in an urban setting without access to dirt and gardens, and is amazed to see that those little baby green things on the plant are going to turn into tomatoes. You see the transformation in her face as she realizes that the little seed she has just planted is going to grow into something green and edible, and you see the pure joy on her face as she waters and waters in the warm sunshine.

On May 1st the Garden Church opened our gates to the empty lot we have leased and are transforming into an urban sanctuary, a pop-up garden and gathering space. In this short amount of time, we have a beautiful collection of stories started of individual and communal transformation. The vision of the Garden Church that you’ve been hearing about, and reading about, and supporting, and praying for is now embodied in people and garden beds, bread and wine, conversations and relationship, prayers—all tangible reminders of God’s love and presence.FullSizeRender

When we opened the gates on May 1st, the first thing that we did was to place our altar, a beautiful tree stump, in the middle and consecrate it and the empty lot as a sacred space—as a church. We began with these words: May the God of all creation, bless this space and its many parts, for the seeking of the peace of the city. This lot has been waiting for us, longing to be a life-giving element in our city and in the lives of the people who live here. It is our partner, our co-creator, our home for this season.”

We went on to bless the gates and the soil, giving thanks for God’s presence in the earth and the sky.

We then consecrated the table with these words:11262123_10153260798508363_2427397761498950005_n

We consecrate this table with the anointing of oil, the oil that runs over the head of those who are prophets and priests of God’s message in the world. We anoint our table with oil as it in itself, at the center of our worship space and of our life together as a community, bears God’s prophetic message to the world. All are welcome at this table. All people, in all expressions of humanity, welcome at this table to feed and be fed. This is God’s table, all are welcome here.”

And that, my friends, is exactly what has been happening. All kinds of people, from various walks of life, young and old, housed and unhoused, from different backgrounds and languages, race and gender, gay and straight, wealthy and living in poverty, from different faith traditions or none at all, varied ideologies, and so many stories, are meeting together in the garden—feeding each other and being fed.

Because something happens when we meet together, as two sets of hands meet to help each other plant a basil plant. Something happens when a prominent member of the community sees “that woman I see living on the streets” beautifully scripting the message on the chalkboard for the day and opens her eyes and heart to who she is as a valued human being.

Something happens when the eight-year-old boy who lives with an aunt nearby comes in and is immediately captivated by the garden, “can I come back and plant something?” he asks, and when receiving an affirmative reply comes back the next week with a handful of seeds and then dives right into the life of the community, helping to lead in our opening ritual, reading scripture, and jumping up when a new person joined the circle to show them where the name tags are. The next week I looked across the garden and saw that he had taken the three young men who’d wandered in to check out what was happening and was giving them a tour. Before I knew it, they were being invited to sit down and join us for worship. After which one of them said, “I didn’t realize we were going to do church, I hadn’t taken communion in a very long time and I’m so glad I did.” All three stayed through the meal, visiting with various members of the community, the stoneworker offering to come back and build something, another bringing a fourth friend the following Friday and helping build garden beds, and another coming back by on his way to work just the check on the plants.

June 17 4

Something happens when there’s a space to re-think Christianity, re-imagine what it means to be church without the confines of whatever baggage we may have. A woman and her spouse and young family have claimed this community as their church after being assured that “we’re not about
conversion, we’re about transformation—individual and communal.” She posted on her Facebook page after her first time at a gathering, “Looking forward to gardening and “transforming” with my new Garden Church family!” and invited all her friends to join us.

The stories go on and on. People are connecting with the earth, with their food, with each other, and with God. And this experiment of re-imagining church as we work and worship and eat together, of planting an urban sanctuary, of striving to be a place of more heaven, here on earth, is alive and real and growing.

We are meeting every Sunday afternoon to “make church together.” Everyone who walks through the gates has something to offer and contribute and something we’re hungry for, in body, mind, and spirit. And every week it is different and every week it is beautiful. We are opening our gates more and more throughout the week, as we build the capacity and community involvement. We strung lights and brought in a couple of local singer-songwriters and opened our gates for 1st Thursdays, a monthly art night downtown, complete with live music, open galleries, food trucks and people. More than 150 people came through over the course of the evening and toured the garden and took part in the community that is being built in this space—the responses from the local community continue to be marvelous. “I’ve always thought this space should be a garden” and “thank you for creating this sanctuary” and “this is so wonderful, I want to be part of it” and variations on such phrases are often heard.

And so, we will keep opening the gates, and we will keep meeting people and honoring them as precious humans and finding out what it is that they have to offer, and what it is that they are hungry for. We’ll keep working together and worshiping together and eating together. We’ll keep doing all the million and one things that it takes to keep a scrappy start-up moving forward. And we’ll keep praying and having faith and trust that the God who dreamed all this up will continue to lead and infill this work.

In service to the Holy One and Holy Humanity,

Rev. Anna Woofenden

Your generous giving keeps the Garden Church growing…
Give monthly: https://www.razoo.com/story/The-Garden-Church-Fund
Or one time: https://www.razoo.com/story/Pop-Up-The-Garden-Church
An invitation from our Board of Directors

Giants in the Land: A sermon on race, violence, gospel, and telling the truth

Planting rosemary for remembrance and sage for wisdom.

Planting rosemary for remembrance and sage for wisdom.

The Garden Church, June 21, 2015 6.21.
Rev. Anna Woofenden
1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49
Mark 4:35-41


There are a lot of things I could preach about today. Father’s Day. Summer Solstice. We go through what’s called the Revised Common Lectionary for our scripture texts, a series that walks through the Bible, along with churches all over the world. And today we have David and Goliath, the story of the young boy who faces and defeats the enormous giant; we have Jesus calming the storm. And some of these things would be more fun to preach about than what God has on my heart to preach about today.

A wise preacher is often quoted, “preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” We might say now, “Preach with the Bible in one hand and the Facebook feed and the newsfeed and the Twitter feed in the other hand.” So if I’m going to preach with these in my hands this week, we have to talk about racism and we have to talk about violence. And that’s not fun—I quake and pray, and others have been praying about how we can best have these conversations. Because it’s hard and messy and painful. But I believe that if we can’t have these conversations in church, with the infusion of God’s love and wisdom amongst us, well then I don’t know why we have church.

So friends, I invite you to enter into a hard topic today. And to try to find, where is the gospel in it? Because I do believe that God is present, and that Jesus shows us that there always is gospel—good news. Sometimes to find that gospel we have to be willing to engage the hard and the painful, and the things that we’d rather just gloss over.

Thursday morning, I woke up to a news feed filled with articles and shock and grief. The night before, a young white man who has since been identified as Dylan Storm Roof walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church where a Bible study was taking place. He sat around the tables with the community for over an hour and then, as they were wrapping up, pulled out a gun and shot nine people.

I read and I watched and I sat down and I wrote.

A person,
            Killed another person.
                        And my heart aches.

A white person,
           Killed another black person. 
                       And my lungs contract.

A young white man person,
            Killed nine black women and men, people.
                        And my back stiffens.
                        My heart pounds.
                        My fingers tighten.
                        My feet press into the ground.

All the words scroll by, “Enough is enough”…“Lord, have mercy”…“When will this end?”…“Stop racism”…“When will we have peace?

Scrolling, scrolling, images flush, other faces, Trayvon and Michael, Eric, young girls and old men, the marches, the media, this gaping wound of racism, violence, pain, and hate.

I keep scrolling. Someone urges us not to  “jump to conclusions” and then black clergy colleague asks, “Will you be silent when it’s me?”

My hands go to my forehead. Again.

To keep feeling, to keep being present, every time there is another giant public witness to racism and white supremacy in our nation. I want to ignore, to numb.

Not to be silent because I don’t care, but because it’s so much work to stay present with the suffering. And name that there are giants in our land. There are giant gaping wounds of racism and inequality, hunger and violence. There are systems and ideologies, structures and places within me that continue to benefit from the oppression of others. And I know, that I, as a white woman, am mostly on the benefiting end. And I worry about this beautiful big-hearted little boy that I know, who I’ve known since he was an itty-bitty infant, who has beautiful beautiful black skin and I know that he is in more and more risk with each inch that he grows. And that, my friends, is so painful to sit with. It’s too much. It’s giant.

We heard today the story of a giant—Goliath—a big, huge, intimidating enemy. When we hear this story, this story of a giant that is so gigantic, so overpowering, the giant who has all the armor and weapons and a reputation to go with it, a story of impossibility. Maybe we can relate. The stories we read in the Word can mix and layer with the stories of our lives. We see ourselves in these stories as we let them come alive, and we see ourselves and the world in the text.

There are giants that we face. Racism. Violence. The insurmountable. The very large that seems so dangerous and impossible to even begin to approach.

There were giants in the land. Send someone else. There are giants in our land. I want to run away, to hide, to make it be someone else’s problem, to explain away why this is none of my business or could never affect me.

But then there’s David, this young shepherd boy, innocent, strong, wise, dedicated and trusting in the Lord’s work in the world and in his life. And he steps forward. He says, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

David, and so many courageous people, before and after, who step up and say, “yes, there’s a giant, but there’s also the Lord, and step out in faith and trust and with the courage to face what we all want to hide from.”

Rather than hiding, avoiding, glossing over, I need to show up. Be present to it. I need to continue to listen. I need to particularly listen to my colleagues and friends of color and know and honor that they have wisdom from their lived experience, that I do not, and that I have privilege merely by the skin that I’m born in. I need to listen.

Because when I listen, I hear voices such as Rev. Emma Akapan, a black woman who wrote yesterday, “To my white Christian brethren, I don’t need for you to tell me how angry you are. I need you to tell your white family members, friends, and congregants. I need you to talk about your anger at racism and white supremacy from the pulpit. I need you to urge your congregants to address racism in their own family. White folks know who their racist family members and friends are—now is not the time sit idly by and ignore it. We must face those who we love, and challenge their prejudice. White folks must say, “no more” to racism, especially when it’s a system that they benefit from.”

And so here we are. I could have tried to get away with preaching a nice sermon on Father’s Day today, but I hope not, I hope that this community demands from each other and from your preacher that this is a place where we take our theology of the table, that all are welcome, we take our commitment to look into the eyes of each other and see the face of God, the humanity of all people, we take our charge seriously, to be a place that’s more like heaven, in and amongst the messiness of earth. Which means, to me, that we are willing to stop and wrestle deeply with what the gospel—the “good news”—is for our country still dealing with the festering wound of racism, violence, and division.

I believe hat the gospel calls us to have the courage to have these conversations, knowing that we’re not going to get it all right. I will say some things that offend some, and other things that offend others, I will likely make myself and others uncomfortable that I am preaching about racism from the pulpit, I may even say things that later I’ll have to go back and say, “I’ve learned more since then.” But I will not be silent. Because we need to speak our truth about these giants in the land.

The good news—the gospel—is in Jesus, as we watch him as he walked on earth, calling to repentance, a changing of our minds and heart, as he reached out across barriers and lines, calling us to pray for our enemies, to forgive the impossible, to knock over the tables of injustice, to stand with and walk with the oppressed and speak truth about oppressors.

Remember, Jesus came from a time when there were giants in the land, the Roman empire was crushing those who were not them, slavery and racism and classism were rampant. And Jesus called for a different way. Jesus didn’t put on the armor of Saul. He didn’t go to the palace and try to play with the power struggle of violence and aggression. He didn’t take up the sword and shield.

Like David before him, who when Saul offered him his bronze helmet and coat of mail and David tried to walk in them, and then said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. David took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

David didn’t use Saul’s armor. He went forward with what was more vulnerable, but true to him. He went out as his own vulnerable self. With the tools and skills he knew well.

Jesus, the all powerful God of Heaven and earth, didn’t come into the world protected by chain mail and with a sword. He came to earth as a vulnerable baby, grew and walked with the people. An itinerant preacher, sleeping here and there, going across the lake in boats, being with the people. Valuing, touching, feeding everyone he met. He didn’t hide behind the religious rule or the protection of Roman guards. He put on his own clothing,—vulnerable skin—and from that place engaged the giants.

Jesus wasn’t afraid of the hard conversations, of stirring things up, Or if he was afraid, he did it anyway, even when it resulted in his own death at the hands of Roman rulers.

And here’s where we reach out for and claim the gospel, where we repent and invite God to keep working to change our minds, to take off the ill-fitting armor of the stories we tell ourselves and put down our weapons of defense that come from fear and hate. Calling us to lament and repent. And then to tell the truth.

In the language of metaphor, stones remind us of truth, and if you think about stones as truth, these stones are smooth, and rounded from the water flowing over them, they’re well used, known, lived truths.

And its just one of these stones—one truth—that slays the giant in this story. Now I’m not suggesting that if we just land on just the right truth that we’ll end these major problems in our world. And I’m not suggesting that we use truth as a weapon. And though I’d really like to be able to wrap up our story as nicely as is the story of David and Goliath, I cannot. Because being human and living in the world today is just so much messier than than this story.

We can’t fix it all overnight. We can’t do one thing and make it all better. We can ignore it for so long, but then it will come back in our faces and in our hearts. Maybe we can start by telling the truth. By speaking the truth, we let the light in. We let God in. Tell the truth about the history of slavery that this country is built on. Tell the truth about the vastly un-equal incarceration rate of black men vs. white men who committed the same crime. Tell the truth about racially charged violence. Tell the truth about how economic and social systems benefit white people. Tell the truth about ourselves and how we are part of these systems. Be willing to engage and stand in hard conversations about race, and be honest and vulnerable and to cry out to God in and amongst it.

I wish I had some more uplifting gospel to give you. But maybe the gospel is just this: Embodying our liturgy and our faith. Speaking our prayers of confession and repentance. Being church side-by-side with people that are different than us. Coming around the table where all are welcome. And meaning it. Even when it’s messy. Even when we disagree. Even when we have to be honest and have hard conversations. That we come around God’s table and be the human family together.

Crying out—telling the truth in the midst of it all. Being willing to put on our own clothing, our vulnerability, voice our confusion and doubts, engage in the hard conversations and cry out to God and to each other.

The disciples out on the boat are in the great storm and afraid. And Jesus was asleep in the stern. The disciples are freaking out and say, “Jesus, Jesus, don’t you care that we are perishing?” And he woke up, and said, “Peace, be still” and the waves stopped. He then said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Let us keep crying out, “Jesus, don’t you care that we are perishing?” Crying out in lament for sisters and brothers, crying out as we repent, crying out for healing and reconciliation. And Jesus, just for that moment, calms the storm. Peace. Be still.


We come to You and to each other and we lament…


Excerpts from the prayer service at the Garden Church today for those who were killed Wednesday evening in the  Emanuel AME Church, in Charleston, South Carolina

O Holy One,
We gather to mourn and lament, to cry out, to shake in the wake of another act of violence, another slew of images of death and brutality, another story of black people and white people, hatred and violence, racism and the cries for a just world.

We gather to lament Lord,
Though part of us wants to move on, run away, brush it off,

We stop and lament.

We come to you and to each other and we lament the nine lives that were violently ended Wednesday evening as they gathered to worship and pray.

We come to you and to each other and we lament acts and systems that further racism and violence, valuing the lives of some more than others.

We come to you and to each other and we lament places where violence and division tear apart families, communities, relationships and places inside each one of us.

We come to you and to each other and we lament the ways we have turned from you and from each other and we confess our need for healing and compassion, renewal and peace.

We come together to remember.IMG_0842

And to plant in remembrance of those who died and for those who keep living.


As each plant is being planted, we sing together. O Lord hear our prayer, o Lord hear our prayer, as I call come to me, o Lord hear our prayer, o Lord hear our prayer, come and listen to me.

We remember and mourn for:

  • Cynthia Hurd, 54, a manager with the Charleston County Public Library system.IMG_0849• Ethel Lance, 70, a retiree who recently worked as a church janitor.IMG_0845 • Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, a South Carolina state senator and pastor at the church.IMG_0851 • Susie Jackson, 87, a longtime member of the church.IMG_0853 • Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49, former Charleston County community development director.IMG_0854 • Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, age unknown, a church pastor, speech therapist and a high school girls’ track coach.IMG_0855 • Myra Thompson, 59, a pastor at the church.IMG_0847• Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., 74, another pastor at the church.
    IMG_0857• Tywanza Sanders, 26, a 2014 graduate of Allen University.

IMG_0848And we plant sage for wisdom. For honesty. For the willingness to repent of the ways that we participate in violence and division.


We come before you and we offer our prayer of confession and receive your assurance.

Before God, with the people of God,
We confess to our brokenness;
To the ways we wound our lives,
The lives of others,
And the life of the world.

God who forgives us and urges us to forgive others,
We claim Your unending love,
Your continuing call to renewal and change,
And your constant presence with us on the journey.

You are loved.
You are forgiven.
You are never separated from the expansive love of God.

O Lord hear our prayer, O Lord hear our prayer, when I call, answer me, O Lord hear our prayer, O Lord hear our prayer, come and listen to me.

And now, may the One God of Heaven and earth, God of Compassion, God of Justice, God who created and loves all, the God who calls us to move forward in making a more just and compassionate world be with us all. Amen.

11651184_10155741290850711_494062978_n-1–Rev. Anna Woofenden, the Garden Church in San Pedro, CA 6/19/15

Open Garden at the Garden Church with Live Music | 1st Thursday San Pedro


Every 1st Thursday evening downtown San Pedro comes alive with open galleries, live music, food trucks, and more. We’re opening our gates along with the rest of the community. Come in and explore the garden and enjoy the live musical talent of Oliviero and Nora Woofenden.  Thursday, June 4, 2015  6:00 – 9:00.


For more info on 1st Thursday: http://www.1stthursday.com/