Ransomed Earth

St Mary’s has a bit of a Wild Side! As Spring approaches we look at Lent through Nature’s lens, and look outdoors to the beauty of God’s Creation!

The daffodils have bloomed well and, before the calendar calls for Spring, the golden flower heads are already revelling in themselves, rejoicing in their own beauty, each turned away from the other, perhaps in case they glimpse a bloom of equal loveliness, the narcissus of nature.

The bulbs were planted along the south of the church in our Wild Side last Autumn, along with crocus and snowdrops and other plants, a small gesture to help bring life to our gardens, and one aspect of many hours of work carried out by a few of us between lockdowns.

Whilst the gardens at the south side of the church have been given the main attention lately (‘Quite right,” thought the daffodils), now that some of the trees have been pollarded and the wood used to create habitats, line paths, and provide a few makeshift seats, we’re now moving forwards to the front of the church, extending our Wild Side to the face of Bute Street with a Butterfly Garden planned.

The wood chippings and logs from our pollarded trees cover the area next to be developed in our gardens

We know the importance of caring for the world – we’ve been bombarded enough by so many messages that if they haven’t yet made their impact on humanity one wonders if they ever will, and we ignore the destructive effects that humans have had and are having on nature to our peril.  We know, too, that getting closer to nature can nurture and improve our physical health and mental well-being.

Soon, there will be opportunities for volunteering and activity, discovering nature, exploring the world, planting and growing, engaging with one another as we engage with the gardens, creating a community environment that is green and pleasant, and providing opportunities for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds – the possibilities are profound!

As stewards of God’s creation, we have a duty and a privilege to care for it, to work in harmony with it.  Pope Francis in his book, ‘Let us Dream,’ writes, “In the Genesis account God commands Adam and Eve to be fruitful.  Humankind has a mandate to change, to build, to master creation in the positive sense of creating from it and with it.  So what is to come doesn’t depend on some unseen mechanism, a future in which humanity is a passive spectacle.  No: we’re protagonists, we’re – if I can stretch the world – co-creators.”

Lent is called the springtime of the Church. It is a time for growth, reflected in the re-awakening and gentle growth of the natural world. The birds of St Mary’s have been particularly vocal at the moment, and many are fleeting and flying around looking for good nesting places, or returning to the places they populated last year. Meanwhile, the bats have belted early from hibernation, skipping around the garden around their bell tower home.

In a Lenten hymn for Morning prayer, we read “Jesus the sun of ransomed earth | shed in our inmost souls thy light, as in spring days a fairer birth | heralds each morn the doom of night.”

The hymn continues, “The day is come, the accepted day | when grace, like nature, flowers anew; | trained by thy hand the surer way | rejoice we in our spring time too.”

Gardening is a slow process, requires patience and steady attention but each day brings new surprises and something different to discover.  The natural world provides an image of our own life with God.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth,” wrote St Paul, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labour.  For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:5-9)

As we await a new liberation, when restrictions are lifted we can, wherever we are – in the garden, during our daily exercise, from our window – witness the liberating power of God’s Creation, and maybe use it as an accompaniment to all that we are trying to do during Lent, the springtime of the Church.

The snowdrops of St Mary’s push their way through the earth

If you’d like to find out more, or would like to be involved in the future of our Wild Side then please get in touch!

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