RAISE combines faith with the earth for garden blessings

Advocates – Participants gather at the Hurt Park Community Garden on Salem Avenue in Roanoke on Saturday, April 17. — Photo by Christa Madison

On Saturday, April 17, 17 people gathered at the Hurt Park Community Garden on Salem Avenue NW in Roanoke to bless the garden and to participate in a planting activity. Rev. Don Shovely, Evangelist Mabel Jones, and Minister Jimmy Cook led the proceedings. Participants prayed, sang, and reminisced about the history of the garden, which was established 10 years ago. The garden is now organized by LEAP (Local Environmental Agriculture Project) and John McNamara of LEAP organized a planting activity after the blessing. Participants planted kale and lettuce in a prepared bed and discussed their hopes for the future of the garden.

On the next day, Sunday, April 18, some 30 people gathered at Our Lady of Nazareth’s Giving Garden. Cyndy Unwin, who organizes the Giving Garden, described the garden’s mission and scope where each year dozens of volunteers work together to produce hundreds of pounds of food that is donated to four different local food pantries. Monsignor Patrick Golden blessed the garden, read from scripture, and sprinkled holy water as garden volunteers turned out in significant numbers, wearing matching t-shirts.

We often see gardening gloves and dirty jeans in community gardens, but what about clerical collars and religious robes? This month, the down-to-earth and the transcendent mingle in a series of interfaith community garden blessings organized by Roanoke Area Interfaith Stewards of the Earth (RAISE), an affiliate of Virginia Interfaith Power and Light.

“‘The Earth is the Lord’s,’ as the psalmist tells us, and this season is a perfect time to offer blessings, praise, and gratitude to our Creator,” explains Rev. Dr. David Jones, Pastor of Roanoke’s Williams Memorial Baptist Church and co-chair of RAISE.

“These blessings are an opportunity for local congregations to show their support and appreciation for the good work done by our area’s community gardens,” adds Dr. Laura Hartman of the Environmental Studies Program at Roanoke College and co-chair of RAISE.
RAISE (Roanoke Area Interfaith Stewards of the Earth) has organized five garden blessings in the area; two last weekend with three more to occur this week.

Future blessings:
Carilion Clinic’s Morningside Urban Farm, 917 Morgan Ave SE, Roanoke City on Thursday, April 22 (Earth Day) at 5:00 p.m. Blessings by Rev. Susan Emmons-Bentley, Saleem Ahmed, and Rabbi Jama Purser. Tour of garden by Rev. Lisa Vineyard. Yoga class taught by Emilee Hall starting at 6:30 p.m. Link to event on FB: https://fb.me/e/cDmeNDiiu;

The Giving Garden, 41 East Main St., Salem on Saturday, April 24 at 11:00 a.m. Blessing by Rev. Tupper Garden, Salem Presbyterian Church. Link to event on FB: https://fb.me/e/2cmHjgp3a;

George Washington Carver Garden and Fruit Tree Plot on Saturday, April 24 at 2:00 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. 2:00 p.m. at Carver Garden (6th St. and Loudon Ave. NW, Roanoke) 2:45 p.m. at the Fruit Tree Plot (9th St. and Centre Ave., Roanoke). Blessings by Rev. Anthony Holmes and Rev. Carroll Carter.(Link to event on FB: https://fb.me/e/1jWORpE4Z)

RAISE is a Roanoke-based chapter of Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, with the mission to create opportunities for local congregations to live out their callings to care for creation and enact environmental justice, not affiliated with any particular religion or denomination and not here to change anyone’s beliefs. The meetings and congregations enable them to act on their environmental values.