Bright’s Grove Pollinator Garden

Sowing the seeds of change for a greener church

The third time proved to be a charm on Saturday, September 18, as parishioners at St. John-in-the Wilderness, Bright’s Grove, dedicated their Wilderness Pollinator Garden and Beehives project, completed in summer 2020. The morning celebration, twice thwarted by COVID-19 lockdowns, “finally aligned,” says Peter Langille, warden, and was met by feelings of “relief and reward” by the many people who worked so hard to make it happen.

Members of the St. John’s community in Bright’s Grove, Ontario.

Gathering outside for worship under the cool shade of trees as old as the church itself, parishioners remained physically distanced, while humming in unison the familiar opening bars of “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” The Rev. Amanda Longmoore, newly appointed to the parish, welcomed the Rt. Rev. Todd Townshend, Bishop of Huron, noting some fresh landscaping laid in his honour. “We call it Todd’s sod!” said Amanda, which was greeted with warm laughter from the outdoor crowd. Longmoore then invited members of the team who helped to make the beehives project happen to share “The story of how we came to bee here.” Apoidean puns abound at St. John-in-the Wilderness.

“In the beginning,” said Deb Walker, warden, “the Anglican Foundation of Canada challenged us to respond to the perils of climate change.” She thanked AFC for “planting the seeds of change for a greener Canada” and, most especially, for the brainstorming that resulted. “I was learning how to be a warden,” said Walker, “thinking, we’re green enough, let’s move on. And then Bob Halliday came along and said, ‘Let’s build a pollinator garden with wildflowers, native to southwestern Ontario at the time this church was built in 1857.’”

With a project in focus, the congregation—known for its ability to rally the eclectic talents of parishioners—had a “concept to march with,” and march they did. The garden and its 50,000 busily buzzing, hard-working occupants are visible to the community and encourage the interaction and participation of all who pass by. Walker said, “St. John-in-the Wilderness is moving mindsets and demonstrating how to respond to climate change and respect, sustain and renew the earth.”

Bishop Todd Townshend speaks to the community.

In his sermon, Bishop Todd spoke of the “richness” of the gathering. “Thank you for this day,” he said, “thank you for caring for one another through a really hard period of time in the world.” The bishop offered his thoughts on creation care. “One of the things about creation and this effort of the church that has been so beautifully stimulated by the Anglican Foundation and other people who inspire it, is that in our religious tradition, creation is good: it’s made by God, and it is first good. Even though there are so many tough things that happen, God’s mission is to reconcile all things in Christ and make them all good again. I find that so hopeful.”

In an interview after the event, Diane Dance, AFC’s Representative for the Diocese of Huron, said the Bright’s Grove project was one of 20 funded in spring, 2020 through AFC’s Climate Care Request for Proposals. “It was a bold investment for AFC to make in the middle of a global pandemic,” says Dance, “but it was well worth the effort and resulted in innovative projects across the country that included lighting efficiencies, an edible forest, xeriscape landscaping, aeroponic gardens, and an eco-loo.”

“Churches have large facilities and are highly visible in communities,” says Dance, “Now, more than ever, they will be called upon to set an example as 21st-century stewards of God’s creation.”

Walker and Langille say the icing on the cake of the dedication event was the emergence of the parish’s Coffee Hour Team from an 18-month hiatus. “We wanted to serve cake, but couldn’t do it in the usual way,” said Walker, “so the team produced these takeout treats in lovely little decorated bags. It was really wonderful.”

Dedication service of the Pollinator Garden at St. John in-the-Wilderness.

While this congregation, like so many others, continues to manage COVID-related change and challenges, on this day, the pollinator garden project, the long-awaited moment to celebrate it, and the sweet note upon which it ended were all very good indeed.