Episcopal Diocese of Washington

To draw people to Jesus and embody his love
for the world by equipping faith communities,
promoting spiritual growth, and striving for justice

News & Features : Archives October 2016

A Garden Grows in Bowie

October 27, 2016


By Kathleen Moore 

When Holy Trinity, Bowie junior warden Thomas Sykes first read an article about church gardens, he knew right away this ministry would be a good fit for his parish.

“I just thought ‘wow, our parish already has land and a kitchen—two things other parishes would almost die for,’” says Sykes, who envisioned the parish garden as a way to reach out to the community and as a bridge between the parish and the Holy Trinity Episcopal Day School.

“Over the years, the school and the church communities have become distanced,” Sykes explains. “It’s a common story—there are no longer many parishioners who have kids enrolled at the school, and many students’ families don’t realize there is a connection—that the school is our parish’s largest mission.”

Sykes got to work immediately. “I talked to the rector and senior warden about the feasibility of doing this, and they were both on board,” he recalls. “Then, I did a lot of homework. I researched materials and costs, and more importantly, I started thinking about the reasons for building this garden.”

In February, Sykes presented the idea to the vestry. Bishop Mariann Budde happened to be present for the meeting, and heard the presentation as well. “I look at that as a Holy Spirit moment,” Sykes says. “Bishop Mariann came up with the tagline ‘Come grow our church as we grow our garden.’” The parish had a sign made up with Bishop Budde’s tagline that now sits in the garden.

The next step was forming a steering committee to get started on the work of realizing the vision. “I was hoping to get four volunteers, but we got ten right away,” Sykes says. “Once again, the Holy Spirit was saying, ‘it’s just a fit.’”

The outpouring of volunteers from the parish has continued through the planning, building and maintaining of the garden. “It’s not always the same volunteers,” Sykes says, “but collectively we always have people eager to help.” The parish reached out to businesses around the area, receiving discounts and donations of many of the necessary materials.

Holy Trinity’s rector, the Rev. Leslie M. St. Louis, credits strong lay leadership with the successful garden project. “Holy Trinity is a parish that is deeply in transition,” St. Louis says. “It's a 305-year-old parish that is really facing the reality that the way we’ve been doing things—five, 10, 15, 20 years ago—no longer works and hasn’t been working for a long time. Our lay leadership is really taking hold of the question of how we connect to the world the way we are now, and is willing to experiment with a lot of different things, and I think the garden is an expression of that.”  

The completed garden is 20 feet by 25 feet with eight raised beds and a four-foot path down the middle. “It was important the garden be accessible to any visitor in a wheelchair,” Sykes says. “We made sure these guests can get through the gate and into the garden.”

In its first season, the parish crops included peppers, cantaloupes, watermelon, honeydew, squash, and eggplant as well as sunflowers and gladiolas. Volunteers bring fresh produce from the garden to the narthex where community members can help themselves. The parish also makes clear that members and neighbors are welcome to harvest food for themselves. The remaining crops are brought to the local foodbank, the Bowie Interfaith Pantry and Emergency Aid Fund. Between its own garden and the donations from Holy Trinity, the foodbank was able to keep two eight-foot tables filled with fresh produce all summer long.

The opportunity to volunteer in the garden has helped to foster relationships between the parish and its neighbors. “We have one woman who attended a funeral of a family member who had been a member of the parish 20 years ago,” Sykes says. “And I was talking to her about the garden, and now she shows up regularly.” While volunteers describe working in the garden as therapeutic, others “simply sit in the garden and watch what’s going on,” Sykes says. “That’s therapeutic as well. It really is.”

“The garden is a way to reach out into the community and be active with the community in a way that's really healthy,” St. Louis says. “It's brought another avenue to authentically talk to people about God, that isn’t just, ‘hello I'm going to talk to you about Jesus Christ.’”

The garden is also playing the role Sykes had hoped in strengthening the connection between the parish and its school by becoming an outdoor classroom for students in grades one through four.

“Last Friday we spent the morning in the garden with three science classes—they came out one class after another,” Sykes says. “That’s when all the hard work of building that garden just goes away. They come out with questions and clipboards. They ask questions like, ‘Why did you decide to build a garden?’ One class was learning about bacteria, so wanted to know all about bacteria in the garden. It is really higher level learning.”

When students asked how tall the tallest sunflower is, Sykes simply pulled it out, roots and all (it was the end of the season) to show not only the height that was visible above ground, but the 8-inch root system below. “That all started from one little seed,” Sykes explained to the students. “Nurturing little things is so important in a garden. And then, they become big things.”

The garden has become a way for students to learn about science, math, food and nutrition, and the importance of creation care. Students have participated in planning, planting, harvesting, and composting. Later this year, students will bring worms they have been watching grow and learning about in their science classroom out to the garden.

“Every time we have a class, the time runs out before questions stop,” Sykes says. “It has fulfilled and exceeded our expectations. It’s so rewarding when the teacher emails to say, ‘They are so looking forward to spending a day with you in the garden.’ And when the new crops start coming in, those students will be able to say, ‘I did that.’

Category: News

New Website Launches

October 13, 2016

The diocese launched a new website and unveiled a new logo yesterday.

The Spanish language site has also been updated and rebranded. It has a new url: es.edow.org

The new website is bright and colorful with a homepage that features more photos and less type than the previous site. The logo retains a variation on the white cross at the center of the previous logo, but surrounds it with deeper, richer colors.

“In interviews with diocesan staff, clergy and lay leaders, the site development team was struck by the emphasis people in our diocese place on living out their faith and trying to make a difference in the world around them,” said Canon to the Ordinary Paul Cooney. “Our website development team set out to create a site that is clean and easy to use, but also one that captures the active, vigorous faith people spoke about--and I think they succeeded.”

Cooney and Mitchell Sams, the diocese’s communications and events manager, were the staff liaisons to the developers.

The site emphasizes the diocese’s commitment to congregational vitality by devoting one section exclusively to parish growth and renewal initiatives. All ministries and networks are grouped under one heading, as are all resources and forms.

The News and Events section contains the diocesan events calendar, newsletters and stories, and links to the diocese’s Facebook page and Twitter stream. A Newcomers section provides introductory information about the Episcopal Church to those whose spiritual explorations bring them to the diocesan website.

Canticle Communications, the diocese’s communications consultants, provided overall editorial direction and project management for the new site, and, with Sams’ assistance, did the writing and editing.  Jans Carton of WebSanity in St. Louis, developed the site’s infrastructure and Martha Hoyle of Martha Hoyle Design in Evanston, Illinois, created the logo and provided art direction.

Category: News

Hunger Walks Step Off on Oct. 16

October 13, 2016


By Lu Stanton León

Whether you’re interested in lacing up your walking shoes or sponsoring those who do, you can help fight hunger and malnutrition in the diocese by supporting the upcoming 2016 Hunger Walks.  Money raised from the walks—$8,000 last year—is distributed by the Diocesan Hunger Fund and goes directly to organizations working against hunger throughout local communities.

This year’s two Hunger Walks get underway at 1:30 p. m. Sunday, October 16. One starts at Lake Needwood in Derwood, Maryland, and is organized by the youth group at Christ Church, Rockville. The other walk begins at Serenity Farm in Benedict, Maryland, and is organized by parishioners at Christ Church, Port Tobacco Parish in La Plata, and Christ Church, Old Durham.

Last year the Diocesan Hunger Fund distributed $53,200.00 in grants to 13 organizations. The fund receives administrative support from the diocese but no funds from the diocesan budget. All funding comes from parishes, either through monthly or periodic collections or special events like the annual Hunger Walks.

This past June a $4,400 Hunger Fund grant was awarded to the Kwanzaa Kitchen breakfast program, which has operated out of St. George’s Episcopal Church in the Bloomingdale/LeDroit area of northwest Washington since 1992. Volunteers there serve 50 to 100 hot breakfast meals (dine-ins and carry outs) two Saturdays each month.

“Our program wouldn’t exist without the Hunger Fund,” says Janis Evans, who has volunteered at Kwanzaa Kitchen since 1994 and is now program coordinator. “We have seen the number of people served go down over the years, but I think it’s because of gentrification. A lot of people have been pushed out. Now, between 25 to 40 people come for breakfast. In addition to giving them a dine-in plate, they can take carryout. A lot of them take one home to eat later or take to shut-ins.”

The Hunger Fund was established in the mid-1970s under Bishop John. 2016 has been a tough year for the fund.

“This has been the worst year for money I’ve seen in a long time,” says Lee Mericle, chair of the Hunger Fund committee. “We are way down in funds this year. I don’t know why, but as of August we had received a little over $51,000 in requests and had funded a little over $25,000, which is not good.”

The Hunger Fund awards grants throughout the year. Mericle hopes that direct donations and donations from the Hunger Walks will increase this fall.  Direct donations can be made through diocesan churches. Donors can also give online.

As with many feeding programs, the Hunger Fund is Kwanzaa Kitchen’s life line.

“Number one, because of our financial issues, it would be impossible for St. George’s to fund a program like this,” Evans says. “We really count on the Hunger Fund to provide this service. And two, the patrons look forward to it. They don’t have the resources for a hot meal. They look forward to a nutritious, hot, full breakfast.”

The nourishment they receive goes beyond a hot meal.

“We get to know them by name,” says Evans, who is chair of St. George’s outreach committee and is a licensed counselor. “It’s like a family. They look forward to it. It’s not just breakfast; it is fellowship.”

Breakfast is served from 9 a. m. until about 11 a.m. by volunteers including parishioners, community members, fraternities, sororities, and high school students fulfilling community service requirements. The menu includes scrambled eggs with cheese, turkey bacon, pancakes, seasonal grits or cereal, coffee and juice. And sometimes fresh fruit on special occasions and holidays.

“I start with a scripture reading, then we have a prayer,” Evans says. “We move into the kitchen and have prayer for the servers. Then we serve. I’ve done surveys before where I’ve asked them what is it that keeps them coming back. A lot of them say for the fellowship, for the prayer. It’s not just the food.”

In addition to Kwanzaa Kitchen, the Hunger Fund awarded grants in the District to: Calvary Church; Charlie's Place at St. Margaret's Church; the Welcome Table at Church of the Epiphany; Loaves and Fishes at St. Stephen and the Incarnation; Seabury Resources for Aging and Reaching the World Community Development. The fund awarded grants in Maryland to: Christ Church, Port Tobacco’s food pantry; the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless; Mt. Ennon Development Corporation; St. Peter's, Poolesville; Shepherd's Table; and We Are Family Senior Outreach.

To participate in the upcoming Hunger Walks, get people to make a donation to support your walk and turn in the donations at a parish church. Others who wish to support the fund can donate online.

The walk at Lake Needlewood usually starts with yoga stretching exercises and goes along the 75-acre lake that is surrounded by parkland. The walk at Serenity Farm runs through a working farm that dates to the founding of Benedict, in the late 17th century. Both walks are laid out so walkers traverse between five and 10 kilometers, or 3.1 or 6.2 miles.