Planting a Bible Garden
Getting Started Outdoors
When I started at Memorial United Church of Christ in Fitchburg, Wisconsin as the Director of Faith Development, I knew I wanted to start offering summer Sunday school. I also knew I wanted to take advantage of the church’s five acres of land. The first few summers we had outdoor walks, nature scavenger hunts, and made nature-themed mandalas. We used two books by the Rev. Randy Hammer: God’s Blue Earth: Teaching Kids to Celebrate the Sacred Gift of Water and What’s So Amazing about Polar Bears? Teaching Kids to Care for Creation. Our lessons were oftentimes included in the children’s sermon during worship.
During the COVID-19 years, I wanted to offer something in-person that would be safe for everyone. While researching different gardening projects with children, I began learning about Bible gardens. Having people outdoors individually masked while planting seeds seemed like a safe option for all.
What is a Bible Garden?
Quite simply, a Bible Garden is a garden that only contains plants mentioned in the Bible. Some of these plants can only be grown in the Middle East while some can also be grown in the Americas. Gardens and plants were important and mentioned throughout the Bible. The first garden mentioned is right at the very beginning: The Garden of Eden! Depending on where you live, you have a variety of options to choose from when selecting which plants you want in your garden.
What makes this a fun summer Sunday school option is that it’s intergenerational, so families can work alongside each other. If you don’t have a child in the Sunday school program, you can still take part in the garden and learn more about the children and youth you might not otherwise get to know.
Lessons Learned and Experienced
One of my favorite Bible Garden lessons was the one where we learned about henna. My husband, Raju Eliganti, is from south India, so he talked about the henna plant, created designs on children’s hands and even video-called his sister in India, so that she could show everyone her henna tree.
Another favorite lesson was when we planted barley. A teacher made a replica of an ancient farm tool and told everyone how people would use a similar tool to beat the husk off the barley seed. After the children beat the husks, they put the seeds into a bowl and tossed the remaining husks into the air to let the wind blow them away. We then ground up the seeds using stones. We explained the importance of bread during Jesus’s time and that it wasn’t easy to make. One of the children even remarked that it was no wonder why Jesus mentioned having our daily bread in the Lord’s prayer. Afterward, the children sampled some homemade barley bread with honey.
At our church, we believe it’s important to teach that God created us and is a part of us but also that God created nature and is a part of it, too. Mother Earth is an official member of our congregation, so we treat her as we would want to be treated.