Community Garden - Growing Together
Letter from Pastor Will
Since I began here at Milaca Alliance Church, I’ve been listening to several leaders and members of our church tell me about different ideas for our church, particularly our grounds and facilities, that each of them would like to explore. There are many people in our congregation with ideas of how to improve or best care for our building. Each year we have a new property updates and concerns to address and we’ve worked each out on a case by case basis. Churches go through many different phases, and sometimes this maintenance mode, when it comes to church property, is wholly appropriate. But right now, we are sensing the Spirit leading us forward, in faith, out of maintenance mode. I would like to seek a unified direction for our church facilities and especially ways for our people to be involved with conversations about that direction. One of my beliefs about the Kingdom of God is that the people themselves are God’s gift to the church (Ephesians 4:11-13). This means that we need to look at the gifts, the people, that God has given to us right here at Milaca Alliance Church, and receive them. For me, this looks like taking different ideas and unique giftings and giving them an opportunity to grow and work together.
I asked Erik Johnson to facilitate conversations seeking unity and encouraging creativity about our facility. This conversation began over a year ago in the spring of 2018 with a Sunday School class Erik taught. Also, I set out some goals for blessing and engaging our local community at our last congregational meeting. As the Creative Arts Initiative group (the group that formed as a response to the invitation to continue the conversation) has continued to meet, 35-40 of our people have expressed committed interest and excitement for this project. Erik continued to meet with and unify the many ideas and presented the plan with the Elder Board - a solid direction for gardens, a walking path, and a large gathering area.
This project alone is not the ultimate vision for our church property (we need to continue working on that), but it has been an excellent way to work together and think about the future of what we as a body of believers will do with the gifts we have been given. I personally would like all of our congregation to be knowledgable about our property and facilities and excited about what we can do with it. So what was shared last week after the potluck was the next step in continuing the conversation. The goal of the group presenting to the congregation was to open up discussion and grow together.
This process has been set up intentionally with a conversation model and not a consumer model. A conversation model invites people to come together to hear about what one wants to share, and then allow others to join. One shares, the other people charitably hear, work to understand, and then contribute - to have thoughts and share.
A consumer model makes it so that there has be a product, then a sales pitch for the buyer to hear, and then the buyer either buys in or rejects. I don’t want a spirit of consumerism in our church.
There will be more opportunities to join this conversation. If you missed the presentation last week, you can view it on our website. The video was taken by a true amateur - and if you want a copy of the slides those are available as well. You can talk to me or Erik about getting those. The most common questions asked after the presentation last week are listed with answers on a separate sheet. The next step for the project will be another gathering time where more conversation can be had and where people can get connected with teams that are working on specific parts of the project. The date of that meeting will be set soon, and you may also see some work out in our field marking off the potential spot for the garden. Please, go out to the field, and if you haven’t already done so, prayerfully walk our grounds. Begin dreaming about what God might have for us as we seek to live in and build the Kingdom of God together.
Videos of the Presentation
In case you missed the presentation in May, you can watch all 4 videos that were recorded that day.
1. What is the purpose of this project? For outreach? For fellowship among members? To feed the hungry?
The project could do all of these things! These are some of the guiding ideas around the purpose of the project:
To create “a porch” - meaning a “safe” middle ground on which to meet and invite the community.
To create “a bridge” - a place of connection between the church and community.
To mobilize our people to do kingdom work and share the Gospel with our community.
To encourage the use of spiritual gifts in a variety of ways in our church.
To create “a landmark” - something clearly visible to the community, marking this place, stepping beyond simple utility, to offer something of beauty and hope as an invitation.
To create a place/symbol where a continuing celebration of the last 100 years and our future that lies ahead of us.
To create a place to activate church engagement with the community.
To create a place for future arts projects, to cultivate that culture of hope & creativity.
2. How does this project fit in with the overall direction and vision of the church going forward?
The overall mission of the church is the following: We believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people. This is not a fancy, new, or surprising mission for our church. This is simply the mission of the church that Jesus gave at the beginning. The community garden is a creative way to use our property to bless our community and share the truth of Jesus Christ. It engages the gifts God has given to our congregation and helps us to work side by side with each other and those in our community.
3. How much will the project cost? If the project moves forward how will it be paid for?
The overall cost of the project is unknown. The project is designed engage the congregation and community. The cost is dependent on level of interest from both the congregation and community. It has not been decided if the project should be “bid” based on the design and then fund raising done according to that specific goal, OR if fund raising should happen first and then the design be modified to fit the funds raised. The project will be paid for in a variety of ways.
Through direct fundraising from within the congregation.
Through donations of materials and labor from both the congregation and the community.
4. Are there phases to the project, or will it all be done at once.
The initial conversation has definitely had phases in mind, though what was presented after the potluck did not break down the project into phases (that presentation was meant to give a big picture of what has been dreamed and conceived over the past year). The project will only move forward in phases - by interest and sustainability. Specific phases have not been hammered out (again, part of the conversation), but could be a few garden beds to begin with, then a few more as interest increases. The path, the open gathering space, and especially the prayer chapel/structure can all develop over time.
5. Who is going to put it together, work it, supervise it, and maintain it?
This is an excellent question and one that is a big part of the conversation. Some of the answers are dependent on the interest from the congregation and community. Because the garden is on church property, the primary responsibility will be from within the church. There are a couple of other Alliance churches in our district with community gardens, and we are reaching out to them to help think through these issues.
6. I’m unclear about how the congregation participates in this project? Will we have to vote to approve the project?
Yes, there will be a congregational vote about this project - the bylaws require congregational approval to build on church property. Any building project also has to be approved by the North Central District of the C&MA.
7. How will we get enough volunteers for this project when it seems like we struggle to staff Sunday school, AWANA, VBS, kitchen help, children's church, nursery, and other committees?
The pastor and the elder board are prayerfully considering how our church will prioritize the gospel impacting lives in our community right now. This will involve weighing ministries based on our contextualized goal to share Jesus with people. We can’t do everything - we all know that! In faith, we anticipate church growth, and more volunteers as a result. We also know that it is possible that some current ministries will change in order to adapt to these goals. One of the big parts of this project is to meet people from our community and work with them. It is our hope that this project will involve volunteers from outside of our congregation.
8. Are we doing this project before fixing the basement, sidewalks (water problems) and cement between the gym and garage?
Maybe. The two are not prioritized one over the other. We can do more than one project at a time. The timeframe that it will take to make sure that the water damage to the front of our building is corrected may take longer than the community garden will take to begin its development. This does not mean that we are neglecting the care of our building or property. We will continue to invest in the longevity of our building, but we will do it at the pace that we can do it well, not a quick fix. Currently, we are researching what options are possible for correcting the front. There are several ideas for fixing it, but it looks like we will need a project manager to help come up with a solution that will definitively correct the problem.
9. Are the teams that were presented actually in place?
The group that was regularly meeting to talk about this project will no longer be meeting regularly. The next step involves the development of category-specific or task-specific teams. These teams are not fully established - there is an open invitation for anybody interested to join in! You might be interested in helping with physical labor, gathering materials, caring for a garden plot, connecting with groups in the community, fund raising, etc.
10. Will there be asparagus? Will the gardens be all vegetables or will there be flowers too?
There is so much freedom in this project - if you want to tend a small asparagus patch - go for it! - or maybe you can get someone to tend one for you. We expect as much beauty and variety in the gardens as there is in the Kingdom of God!