St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Billings Creates Community through Garden
Last month I helped lead the Eco-Stewards Program for young adults in Montana. We spent time exploring the connections between faith and environmental stewardship, contemplating our own eco-faith journeys, learning about traditions of living with and from the land on the Crow Reservation, and talking with people of faith about how they live out environmental ministries. Read a recent blog post on the Eco-Stewards Program blog by Evelyn Meisenbacher with her reflections from the trip.
One of our visits to explore the connections between faith and environmental stewardship took us to St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Billings where David Kimball and Rev. Brent long spoke with us about the church’s community garden and took us on a tour of the half-acre garden.
David Kimball is a Master Gardener who helps organize the nine-year-old St. Andrew Community Garden. Kimball spoke about the garden as one of the most visible parts of the church and a manifestation of the church’s ministry. Along with 104 plots that are rented by families in the church and the community for $10 a year, the garden is also home to “Common Ground,” a part of the garden from which the produce is gived to the local food bank, homeless shelter, and other community ministries. In addition to the 1700 pounds of produce gived from Common Ground last year, each family who has a plot in the community garden commits to sharing ten percent of their plot’s produce with people in need. Families with garden plots volunteer to tend the Common Ground space.
In addition to providing space for growing produce, the church is committed to creating “a community of gardeners,” through summer picnics for the gardeners, monthly garden meetings, and seminars that are offered on topics including vegetable selection and food preservation. During our visit in early June the garden was busy with families tending their plots. It is exciting to see this type of community ministry in action. In addition to items that help the organic garden grow – several compost piles, a well that the church dug, and an irrigation system – the garden is also home to a contemplative labyrinth, to help nurture the gardeners.
St. Andrew Presbyterian Church has incorporated care for creation and food justice issues into other parts of its church life as well. Some church members are active on a committee exploring food security in Billings, and the church sells fair trade products through the Presbyterian Coffee Project. It is exciting to see this earth care ethic spread through the church’s life. Thanks to St. Andrew Presbyterian Church for spending time with the Eco-Stewards and for this ministry!