Glimpses into the Garden Church Gathering

What a beautiful Gathering we had yesterday! Here’s a glimpse of it for those of you who couldn’t be with us in person. 
1cWhen you’re making church from scratch, the trunk of the car is key. 1dThose leading arrived early and scouted out our meeting place….
2...and then enlisted people to help set up as they arrived. One of the mottos we are engaging is, “give the work away.” Feeling useful and being a part of something engages us in a way that many other things don’t. It’s part of our whole “feed and be fed” bit. And so, as tempting as it was to get everything set up before people arrived, we restrained ourselves and had the joy of an entire artistic “name tag team” form, bonding over a “fill the watering cans” run, and worship space designers preparing the table. 34We then gathered around, ready to “make church together.”  5cJanis and Rachel shared with us how to plant and care for our lettuce seeds.
4aAnd then we got to work!9
5a People shared about the people in their lives that they were going to give their second pot to. Neighbors who they’d been wanting to connect with, homebound grandparents, close friend who is going through a loss. The Garden Church goodness spreading out into the world. 5Meanwhile, Lisa led the Garden Church Choir (“that’s you!”) in learning a song to sing during worship.4bOur youngest gardener won the prize… and made six pots! 5b At the Garden Church, we work together….8a We moved into our time of worship and unpacked our Tabernacle, the marker points of God dwelling with us as we are a community on the move.  Helpers were at the ready and set out the Bible, the candle, the bread and wine, the water and our icon of the Tree of Life. We then rung the gong and entered into the sacred silence where we can hear the Divine speaking to us.  8bHearing stories form the Word. 14c
And reflections on how we can engage our spiritual lives. 10
The community furthers the sermon in their reflections.
14a And then we share together in the Sacred Meal. The bread of life… 14b…and the cup of salvation. Feed and be fed. 13aOur Sacred Meal led into our community meal, where we enjoyed delightful food and good company. 
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA17  We enjoyed the beauty of the choir singing and then teaching us, “This Pretty Planet” and by the end had the whole circle singing it as a three-part round, complete with movements and an ode to the scene behind us as we sang, “Golden sun going down, gentle blue giant, spin us around.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA May the Lord bless you and keep you….as we go out to love and to serve.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEveryone take your pots of future salad…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Packing up and leaving with full hearts under the glorious blessing of creation and our Creator.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet’s be church together again soon!

Add your offering to the basket for the work of the Garden Church.


The Garden Church and Common Ground on “Love in a Dangerous Time”


The Garden Church and Common Ground were recently featured on the Love in a Dangerous Time online radio show.  Listen and hear Rev. Anna Woofenden and Rev. Sarah Buteux talk about the way that they are re-imagining church in their communities.

The Compost Heap and the Church (Part One)

Presented at Gathering Leaves (a symposium for women from all branches of the Swedenborgian Tradition)
September 14th 2013, Fryeburg Maine

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I have come to believe that a compost heap is beautiful. Decaying leaves. Crumbled eggshells. And yes, even that slime oozing off a banana peal. I love a good compost heap. I cannot say that I’ve grown to love the odor—that sharp, putrid smell that reminds us of death as part of the life cycle. But I do love a good compost heap, and I do believe that it is beautiful.

I believe dry leaves are beautiful. Dry leaves hold a set of unique colors. Looking out the window over the Saco River today, we see that the leaves are beginning to turn. And in the next month, thousands of tourists will come to New England. And what will all these people flock here to see? Dying leaves! Millions of beautifully shaped colored flags proclaiming in unison the changing of the season and the decay of their little corner of the nature-scape.2013-08-24 23.00.07

This sense of cycles is evoked by the Gathering Leaves 2013 theme, “Changing Colors, Changing Lives.” As are the seasons of nature, so are the seasons of our lives, of our communities, and of our churches. I believe that the cycles and the seasons—like any spiritual principle—do not just apply to their literal manifestations. These cycles in the natural world correspond, or mirror a spiritual process, something that is going on internally. Emanuel Swedenborg talks about the idea of the microcosm and the macrocosm, and that any one principle is true on various levels, leading me to believe that not only do the season and life cycles show up inside an individual, but also in collections of individuals. What we know about death and life, birth and resurrection, in a human setting, can also be true within a community, within humanity as a whole, within nature, and in the church.

And so within this context of seasons and change, I’d like to consider the following questions: What are the spiritual principles of a compost heap? And how does that apply to the church? What does it mean to be part of an organization that is moving through decomposition, fertilization, and new growth? 

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Intergenerational Conversation
This morning at Gathering Leaves we have an opportunity to engage intergenerational conversations around the future of our church. My experience is that it takes effort and is often uncomfortable to talk about the church between generations. I walk in many circles, and I often end up in conversations about church with various generations. I’ve noticed that particularly from the generation that’s most prominently represented here—those over fifty-five—I hear these types of questions: “What’s happening to the church?” and “What’s the future of the church?” And I hear the questions, some tinged with expectations or disappointment, “Where are the young people? Why aren’t they taking over?” Or the laments of, “What are we doing wrong?” “Why didn’t this work? I raised my kids in the church and now they’re not interested.” This is a tender and often difficult subject, and it can be very personal for all of us. I hear and honor these questions.

I want to reframe the questions. I believe there’s great power in how we frame our questions, and I’d like to suggest other options. For example, what about these questions: “What might church look like for different generations?” “What is feeding the spiritual lives of the young people of today?” And the question that is driving my call to ministry, and the reason I’m here today: “What does it mean to be faithful today? What does it look like to be ‘church’ in this generation?”

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To be continued… or if you can’t wait and want to read the whole thing right now, you can find it published in the recent edition of The Messenger.