Not too long ago, the space behind the Anglican church building in Wharf Street, Maclean, was used as a place for vehicles to turn around; nowadays it’s a vibrant vegie garden, with each raised bed’s name inspired by ‘Gifts of the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:22-23) and the garden, itself, christened ‘Fruits of the Spirit’.
“The original concept came through Julie,” says Julie’s husband, Geoff Roach.
“We applied to the Smarty Grants scheme, but we didn’t get a full amount.
“Then parishioners came on board, with gifts of money and goods.
“And a lot of [wider] community people come on board, too.” The garden is formally named after Lee Small, who established the church’s op shop, and it is open to the wider community, to be
“more inclusive … to bring in the community, as well, through the back door, so to speak, as an outreach”.
“Lee and Lyle Small were very instrumental in establishing our op shop; and this little garden is actually attached to the op shop because people can sell their surplus produce there,” says Geoff.
“They were great stalwarts of the church, and their family donated, after the passing of Lee, a substantial amount of money, which helped us to purchase our rainwater tank and different things.”
Julie recalls how the idea came to fruition.
“We were doing a Bible study class and thinking about how we could reach out to help people, a little bit more than what we were doing,” she says.
“So, I went home and prayed about it, and I just kept getting this thing coming into my head, about community; so, I thought, ‘okay’, and asked a few people and they said, ‘Oh no we’re too old’, but it just kept coming to me.
“So, I took it to the church council and then we got the grant.
“A lot of people do want to reach out but are not quite sure whether they believe in God or Jesus and they don’t want to come in the front door of the church.
“How great that they can come here [to the church community garden and speak to other people, if they’re lonely [for example] and have a conversation with someone.
“They’re at the back of the church, so God's presence has to be pretty near, doesn’t it?” Geoff says people from the wider community were “more than happy” to help establish the garden, with tradies, a hardware store, a supermarket and a local earth moving company donating their services and/or providing generous discounts.
“So many people have stepped up and helped out from outside of the church community,” Geoff says.
“One of the most encouraging benefits is the development of relationships with other organisations.
“The Wesley Organisation operates a day care centre for older people in Maclean, and they also work with disabled adults.
“Recently they lost their green space, and they now operate two beds in the garden.” Geoff says he encourages other parishes to follow his church’s lead.
“It’s worthwhile, viable, beneficial to the community and marvellous for those of any age who want to get out and share life with others.”
For more information call into the op shop.