By Naomi Giles
Often the meeting places of churches can go largely unnoticed by many people passing by. But something as simple as a new garden bed in the right place could blossom into a relationship between the church and the community.
Two Fresh Hope churches in Canberra – NationsHeart Christian Community in Belconnen and Lyons Church of Christ in Woden – sit on prime parcels of land nestled among growing centres.
Although both churches have been active across the years in connecting with the community, there is a sense they are now being largely overlooked by many people walking and driving by.
“When I told the ladies of my gym group what church I went to, they responded with surprise, thinking that because our hill in front of the building looked scrappy that the church had shut down,” says NationsHeart member Patrice Simmons. “That really hurt, and it got me thinking we needed to do something about it.”
When Patrice heard that organisers of the popular Floriade festival were supplying community groups in the suburbs with a grant of bulbs and annuals, she mustered support and applied. Across town, Lyons Church of Christ did the same, and both churches were thrilled to be chosen.
Each church then set about creating space for the new plot and planted the bulbs, ready for a lovely floral revelation in spring.
“Even when we were cleaning up the hill, we noticed people stopping and paying attention to what was going on,” says Patrice. “When the flowers come out in spring, it will really lift this whole area.”
Jenny Harper, of Lyons Church, says that thousands of people drive by the front of their church every day.
“It seemed like an easy but beautiful way of alerting people that we are here, and they are welcome to be a part of us,” she says. “Even on the day we were planting out the bulbs, a local resident walking by stopped to comment on what a nice idea it was and how they were looking forward to seeing the flowers.”
While the bulbs and annuals were supplied, the rest of the work and the costs have been borne by each local church. But the opportunity to partner with the ACT Government and bless the community seems a small price to pay.
“We want people to know that we are here and that we care,” says Patrice. “Although some people may want nothing to do with churches, this little patch of beauty may just touch someone we are yet to meet.”
The churches are part of a large campaign in garden beds in community spaces across Canberra, which complements the main Floriade event in September at Commonwealth Park. The initiative to spread the colour out across the city gathered momentum last year, amid the tight COVID restrictions when the main event could not be held. So, even though Floriade is back this year, organisers have decided the ‘bulbs in the burbs’ are a wonderful addition.