Now that COVID-19 is forcing us to stay apart, church ministry looks very different than it did just six months ago. At Saint Paul’s UMC in Tallahassee, we used to build bunk beds together in our parking lot, bring meals to new parents, visit senior living centers, and travel together on mission trips. Sadly, these activities are just too dangerous to continue during a pandemic. Instead of staying on hold until the virus passes, the Missions team was directed by our Pastor Rev. Kandace Brooks to reevaluate our goals to reflect this new reality, while heeding Bishop Carter’s call to join the Million Meals effort. Although many of our ministries were unable to continue, our Creation Care group was still actively working in our church garden and providing organic vegetables to local food banks and homeless shelters. The team practiced social distancing and wearing masks while gardening to protect each other and were grateful for the fellowship during what was otherwise a lonely time being quarantined at home. This success inspired the Missions team to increase our garden efforts to address food insecurity in our own community.
By: Cara Fleischer. incoming Chair of the FLUMC Creation Care Task Team, Cares4Creation@gmail.com
The threat of COVID-19 has crippled our economy and caused millions of workers to lose their jobs, many of whom were already living on the margins. The demand for food assistance has risen sharply and we recognized this was a need our church could fill with our garden team. Instead of expanding our own church garden, we decided to partner with a nonprofit called Tallahassee Food Network (TFN) that manages community gardens in food insecure and historically African American areas. Residents use plots to grow vegetables, attend classes on how to start their own gardens at home to provide food for their families, and learn about healthy living to protect against diseases like diabetes. TFN also brings bags of groceries to the elderly and veterans who can’t leave their homes and gives away backpacks full of supplies to school children.
Our Missions team felt that by supporting this frontline organization, we could increase racial unity and directly help alleviate hunger in our community. We reallocated funds to give TFN a donation, but perhaps more importantly, our Creation Care group came to the iGrow Community Garden in Frenchtown every Monday morning from 9 am – 12 pm to work alongside neighborhood organizers. We formed friendships while tackling weeds, clearing areas for new plots, hauling debris in wheelbarrows, and trimming trees. This time became known as Divine Dirt and we invited houses of worship all over Tallahassee to join us, and before we knew it, we had a dedicated group of volunteers working together in the garden. Miaisha Mitchell, the Director of Tallahassee Food Network, said “It is amazing to see the transformation in the garden thanks to Divine Dirt, and we are all excited about that.”
Creation Care ministry has been a source of joy for Saint Paul’s UMC for the last four years and is one of the few ministries that continues to thrive in this COVID-19 world. Our team enjoys spending time outdoors growing food in gardens, adventuring with our Youth group on hikes and paddling trips, and working to reduce our buildings’ carbon footprint.
Now more than ever, our world needs Creation Care. All are invited to join leaders across the country at the United Methodist Creation Care Summit on October 16 & 17, 2020 to learn how to start your own ministry and become an advocate for the earth. Find all the details here: http://www.umcreationcaresummit.org.