We’d taken to calling the garden our front porch. A place to play, sit, rest, and just be. At least that is what we’d planned on it being. Our church website calls the garden an “evolving landscape. As it evolves, we listen for what’s invited to become in that space… Our garden is a place where community is created.”
Early in the pandemic, Susan Etherton described driving to the garden searching for some quiet amidst the upended world of stay-at-home orders and isolation. She simply wanted to wander, take some pictures, and experience a solemn moment with the Spirit.
Our garden is an evolving landscape. As it evolves, we listen for what’s invited to become in that space… Our garden is a place where community is created.
As she drove up she noticed two people sitting in chairs across from one another. A moment later, a small group of people walked into the garden and sat down at a table together. While we’d added the chairs, the café table was new. It seemed as though the community was beginning to find a way to live in the garden space as well.
Susan knew the moment of zen she hoped for was not going to happen. At least it wasn’t going to happen the way she expected. Rather than leave and come back another time, she ventured forth.
Walking into the garden she stopped to talk to the two people sitting in the chairs. Community is a funny thing, it often develops where we least expect it. While sharing a bit about their lives and connections to the space, a surprising connection came to light. The foster mother of “Jimmy” happened to also be a friend of APC. She was APC’s attorney, and she also happened to have been the moderator of the General Assembly before her untimely death of cancer in 2012. “Jimmy” and Susan were both at her funeral eight years earlier.
Our garden is a place where community is created.
Taking her leave, Susan found herself wandering the garden a bit more. She would pick things up as she went. Along the way, with a bag of empty beer cans in her hand, the young men from the café table approached her. After introducing themselves, they talked a bit about Gilliam Place and APC.
As residents, they’d enjoyed the garden space as a place to escape their apartments. Often, they found themselves doing exactly was Susan was doing, taking care of the space. As they parted the young men took Susan’s bag of cans and offered to throw it away for her.
Our garden is an evolving landscape.
Reflecting on those moments, Susan described how her heart opened and expanded. Where she expected the garden to be one thing, the Spirit moved in a way that made it so much more. As we continue to evolve into our worship space at Gilliam Place, these encounters are reminders that the Spirit is still calling us into the community. And, while we have ideas about what something should be, God is constantly calling us to see what it could be if it truly was a place where community is created.