It’s pretty cold here, and probably not a day many of us will be doing much walking around town or thinking ahead to spring and summer….yet, here is a Reflection that gets us thinking about the shared spaces in our community
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
Genesis 2:15 (NIV)
When my wife and I arrived in Southall we soon realised what a multicultural and vibrant place it was, but we were saddened that so many green spaces in the area were neglected and left overgrown. We wanted to do something so, with very limited resources, we took on a small plot in one of the overgrown allotments and started a Community Gardens Project in 2010. It was daunting as this was the first community project in the area and we didn’t know how people would react – so we prayed a lot! To our surprise, the project was well-received by the local community and still continues today.
Next we wanted to create a green space for the community to socialise, sit and enjoy food, plant fruit trees, keep beehives, and enjoy nature. So, in 2013 we found a three-acre derelict site, called ‘Wolf Fields’. The site had been used for drug-taking and was littered with beer cans, old mattresses, syringes and all sorts of rubbish. Nearby residents avoided it but we’d fallen in love with it and wanted to transform it. The big question was ‘How do we go about it?’ Followed by ‘Where will the money come from?’ We prayed repeatedly: ‘Lord, if it’s Your will, show us the way. We want to transform this piece of land for your glory, so people and wildlife can thrive together.’
There were lots of obstacles on the way: dealing with the council, sourcing funding and cleaning up the area, but the site is now being transformed with an organic food growing plot, sensory garden, beehives and a story telling area for children. We are over the moon. Not only that, but antisocial behaviour has dropped in the local area, and although a lot is yet to happen, the local community are so pleased with the changes that they come to help maintain the site, have fun and enjoy nature!
Reflecting on the work we do, I see how generous and faithful our God is. He acknowledges our humble prayers and makes our work fruitful in more ways than we could imagine. So many people have flocked to these places since the start and they have become more than just gardens. They are places for sharing ideas, making friendships, growing food, learning and praying together. They are places where people find peace of mind and healing, and places where I myself find the bigger picture of Jesus.
Here are some ways you can Act in response to this Reflection. Green for the simpler Act, Yellow for a bit more time, and Red for the more challenging Act:
Go for a walk and take in your area’s shared community spaces. Go with the planning bit of your mind switched on. What do you see to clear up, or to benefit the community? Share the idea with your church or home group.
Note from Kristin: Or, if you’re not up for a walk, try to think of some ways we can make our church a better “shared space” for our community!
Litter-pick. Either on your own, or grab a group of friends. You can mix this up: scrubbing graffiti and guerrilla gardening (if you’ve a green thumb) are options. Chat with your neighbours, your home group, the school-run/coffee mums, the guys on the rugby team, and see who you can gather together to help you out.
Do today’s green task. Then see if you can get permission from your council to do something with a disused space, or a neglected area. Could you create a community allotment, or spruce up an area to put an event on, like a pop-up coffee stall? Cleaning up a known messy area for an event is a good way to grab people’s attention.