My Time with The Garden Church – by Jessika Perez

This blogpost originally appeared at Common Cause Communities Hatchery LA site on 1/5/2016 and was written by Jessika Perez.

On Sunday, my family and I visited The Garden Church in San Pedro, California. Last May, they began transforming a vacant lot into a pop up, organic urban garden. Last semester, I had the opportunity to hear a little bit from Rev. Anna Woofenden about their vision and the journey the congregation has been on together when she came to share at the Hatchery. I was excited to connect with a local group that has recently launched and is passionate about re-imagining church. For them, this means viewing worship and service, church and community, physical and spiritual as interconnected rather than as opposites or separated from each other.

One of the things that was incredibly meaningful for me was that all (including my energetic 3 year old girls) were asked to participate. Allowing little ones to be part of watering and planting seeds is relatively low risk, as long as they’re supervised. My girls took their assigned tasks VERY seriously and absolutely loved it. However, allowing/asking them to be part of a service has slightly higher stakes. Not only were the people present incredibly open and warm, Rev. Anna also encouraged my girls to contribute during the service as they were able. They played (I use that term generously) instruments, helped to pass things out and were asked questions. Not to give the impression that we were transported to some eerily, perfect universe… there was definitely also a toy corner to help occupy the girls when needed. Part of their Sunday service is also sharing a meal. Their Sunday service intentionally includes work, worship and eating together.

What I loved about our time at the Garden Church was that fancy, super nerdy Christian words like the “incarnation” and “embodied spirituality” are not just talked about on their website and in the sermon. It’s practiced. That sounds cheesy, but when it’s actually experienced, it’s sort of disorienting (in an incredible way). When I first met Rev. Anna, she talked about all being welcome and encouraged to share their gifts. The first time we visited the Garden Church, my girls were included not just in the convenient parts like planting and watering, but in the entire service. It was a tiny and yet huge thing, sort of like a flower pushing stubbornly through a crack in the sidewalk. I’m so thankful for the time my family and I spent with them and for what I’ve been able to learn and experience already.

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