Many churches line the entranceways to their doors with colorful plants and flowers. The First Congregational Church, UCC, of Oxford, however took it a step further and lined their walkways with a 'Share Garden.'
According to Church Moderator Cheryl Almstrom, ground was broken for the vegetable garden last June with the help of many young people in the church and community. The Church School children cared for and harvested the garden all summer long. Then all of the harvest was donated weekly to the community's Ecumenical Food Shelf, a local food pantry that was thrilled to receive the fresh produce.
Because the church is right on Main Street, it is highly visible. The Share Garden was planted front and center, bordering the main walkway up to the front doors of the church, where everyone in the community can see it. The work involved to create and maintain the garden was labor intensive, but for those involved -- mostly children of the church school and scout groups -- it was fun, educational and adventurous.
"Most of the first plants grown in 'God's Caring Hands Share Garden,' were planted from seed by the church school children, so they got to see the whole process of growing, right through to the giving to those most in need," said Almstrom. "It was amazing for me to witness."
Almstrom believes it was not only a huge success with the children, but it also was a positive endeavor for the church, beneficial to the local food shelf, and opened up the door of interest to the community.
The church's goal to expand for the 2012 planting season was reached, thanks to a local scout who was working towards his Eagle Scout award. The scout brought in over 50 people from the community, who did all the digging needed to expand the size of the garden, the fertilization, and the landscaping. The garden can now move on to a new season, larger, and hopefully more fruitful.
"We took on this challenge as a mission project initially, but it became more than that. Our church is currently in transition, and members have been experiencing loss and change," said Almstrom. "We truly needed to tackle a project to liven things up a bit and give everyone a sense of purpose, direction and vision."
"This project accomplished what we have told the children in school -- that each one of us can make a difference, and that we are God's Caring Hands," said Almstrom.
And with those words, the seeds of ministry were planted both literally and figuratively.
Cheryl Almstrom can be reached through the church office at (508) 987-2211 or firstname.lastname@example.org.