When Bishop George Stack, auxiliary in Westminster, is invited to open school gardens he brings four herbs as a gift: Thyme (for the passing of time), Sage (for wisdom), Rosemary (for remembrance) and Lavender (for soothing rest). “I like to remind children that gardens have a special place in Christian experience” he says, “for example God’s work of Creation in the Garden of Eden and then the garden where Jesus was first seen after the Resurrection”. He feels the herbs – which he has grown himself - remind children of the diversity and fruitfulness of creation and gardens help them situate themselves within the context of the natural world.
Bishop Stack was speaking during a workshop on ‘Gardening and Celtic Spirituality’ at Westminster’s Annual Justice and Peace Day last Saturday on the topic of 'Food'. It was held at St John Vianney Parish, West Green. Parish priest, Fr Joe Ryan, and Fr Tim O’Connor of Potters Bar parish led the workshop, and both handed out their produce - including carrots, parsnips, potatoes and apples - to appreciative participants. A huge pumpkin, grown on Fr Tim’s allotment, was reserved for raffling in his parish. He spoke to slides which showed his various crops growing, his compost heap and allotment shed, which is called ‘the cathedral’ by other gardeners. Keeping bees had helped him appreciate the role of bees in pollinating food crops and in producing honey.
The workshop encouraged people to grow some of their own food and get back in contact with soil. “When we see something growing it brings us back to nature and helps us appreciate nature’s cycles” said Fr Joe, who also chairs the Westminster Justice and Peace Commission. He gave a short talk on Celtic Spirituality, where God’s presence is recognised in the workings of nature. “When we play a part in helping something to grow, we are co-creators,” he said. The Commission also produced a draft Archdiocesan Environment Policy at the day, which should be finalised in the coming months.