Some of the most significant events in the Bible happened in gardens. In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve strolled in those first, perfect, obedient days before falling out with God. There is the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus spent his last few hours of freedom before his arrest, trial and crucifixion. And the tomb in which the body of Jesus was placed on that first Good Friday was located in a garden.
Today gardens are places of equal significance, and passion, for many of us – even if the present heatwave is turning lawns into brown carpets, and our most treasured flower pots and vegetables patches into parched, water-
It doesn’t work for everyone I know, but I have always found it helpful to be immerse in the great outdoors when thinking about God, life and the universe. This is why perhaps I’m attracted to the Quiet Garden Movement, which is celebrating 25 years of
‘nurturing access to outdoor space for prayer, reflection and rest in a variety of settings, such as private homes, churches, schools and hospitals; and creating opportunities for people to experience silence, restfulness and contemplative practices’.
And it is all thanks to the vision of a Church of England priest, the Revd Philip Roderick.
It was whilst he was holidaying as a teenager in South Wales that Philip first become aware of a different reality, of a depth to things of which he had previously been unaware. As he experienced the spray-
St David’s, and enjoyed the hospitality he received whilst there, he started to think about creating a network of pilgrim centres. He wanted places of prayer and hospitality which would offer comfort for weariness, laughter for enlightenment, and nurture for the journey. It was however many years later, as he sat enjoying the peace of his own garden, that it occurred to him that what was needed for this simple ministry of hospitality and prayer was, simply, a home and a garden. And so the Quiet Garden Movement began.
In 1992 the owners of a house in Stoke Poges, near the church where Thomas Gray wrote his ‘Elegy in a Country Churchyard’, loaned part of their gracious home for the venture. Now many gardens, whether privately owned or attached to parish churches, in the heart of the countryside or the midst of the city, open for occasional days of stillness and reflection. For those who visit they become oases, places of withdrawal and meeting, of spiritual refreshment and support. Around the hearth or in the sunlight concerns are shared, stories told and prayers offered.
The spiritual writer Margaret Silf has written of this movement: ‘If you stand still for a few minutes in the relentless onward rush of 21st century life you might hear a quiet but insistent undercurrent. It is the cry of our hearts for space and time just to be, to listen to the heartbeat of creation, to let our souls catch up. Quiet gardens offer just such longed–for oases of peace. They open up once more what all our busy-
If you want to know more why not look up https://quietgarden.org. I am not sure what the local scene is like. I also fear my own vicarage garden is some way off being an oasis of beauty albeit it is peaceful. Yet in our midst there are so many places which are both – so what’s outside your back door?
Canon Jane Curtis