It is not unusual for a Vicarage to come with a large garden. St Thomas's Vicarage has a good 700 square yards of lawn, borders, mature trees and a small pond. The old Vicarage, which stood on the same site, had a much larger garden, which is now a cul-de-sac called – wait for it – Vicarage Gardens.
Is a large Vicarage garden a blessing or a curse? That is a matter of debate among the clergy. Some think their garden is a laboursome and time-consuming burden. Others would embrace the same garden as a welcome distraction, or even a therapeutic necessity. I am not a great gardener, but I happily fall into that second category. After a frustrating day in which little seems to have been achieved, few things are more rewarding than mowing the lawn. Instant result: after a little effort the lawn looks (and smells!) great. And of course, following this physical exercise, a cold pint is surely well-deserved?
But the benefits are not only corporeal. A few years ago, there was a call for churches to make their green spaces available for gardening projects to improve mental health. “There are all sorts of benefits – therapeutic, meeting up with others, finding a sense of belonging and purpose. [This idea] is not complicated but it can make a huge difference.” wrote bishop James Newcome. He would be pleased to hear about our open garden events and our Churches Count on Nature café church service - see church calendar.
It is no wonder that the garden is such an effective place of healing and restoration. The Bible begins and ends with stories of Paradise, the Garden of Eden, which God prepared for humans to ‘till and keep’ (Gen 2:15). We are made for gardening! When managed well, our gardens are places of holy harmony with all creation and with the Great Giver of Life. Gardens are both God-spaces and creaturely meeting places. Thou shalt not tarmac over them!
Love and prayers