Unity in the community is one of my passions as senior minister at Unity Church of Ames, Iowa. Social action is a new venture for many Unity folks, so in my first year of ministry, it was best to start small. What we at Unity Church of Ames discovered is that even starting small can have a big impact. The mission statement for Unity of Ames is, “Through the Christ Spirit in us, we create a better church and a better world. So be it!”
In late February, I challenged the community as to the “how” of creating a better church and a better world, and out of that challenge the Garden Angel Project was born. There are a number of master gardeners in this church, and they came forth with the idea of planting a garden in the backyard of the church. The produce from this vegetable garden would be donated to the Plant a Row for the Hungry Project in Ames, which would get the food to those in need. Would the congregation support this?
After getting a go-ahead from the board of trustees and some “seed” money, I passed a watering can during the Sunday service to ask for donations from the congregation to support the Garden Angel Project. Over $100 was raised that day and another $100 came in from someone in our online community. Then we got word that someone had donated the compost—and that is valuable stuff! We had seeds and tools donated, too. We were well on our way!
In May 2013, our Garden Angels—Mark Barrett, Mary Fox and Susan Wolfe—broke the sod, tilled the soil and planted the seeds. Mark set up rain barrels under the downspouts of the church to collect water and put a fence around the garden plot. We have two 18’ x 3’ plots. Including the walkways, the total garden size is 22’ x 15’. We had a Garden Angel Dedication ceremony, actually placing three angels in the garden to bless it after the Sunday service. The story was carried in the local Ames paper, complete with a picture of our Garden Angel sign and the gardeners.
Susan faithfully watered, harvested and tended the garden. At the end of the season, we had a grand total of 385 pounds of food that we donated this year. Some of that came from others who brought extra produce from their gardens to add to our total. We had mesclun and romaine lettuce, kale, cabbage, radishes, bell and jalapeno peppers, zucchini, yellow summer squash, white and yellow onions, green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and melons. Can you believe it? All that from two rows!
This is small but mighty social action from Unity Church of Ames. How do we create a better church and a better world? Grow a garden and feed hungry people fresh produce, that’s how!