A Garden Story

By Shannon Harper

We are going,

Heaven knows where we are going

But we know within

And we’ll get there,

Heaven knows how we will get there

But we know we will

It will be hard, we know,

And the road will be muddy and rough

But we’ll get there,

Heaven knows how we will get there

But we know we will

Woyaya, Woyaya,

Woyaya, Woyaya

~Sol Amarifo

This song, written by Ghanaian drummer Sol Amarifo, is on my mind right now as we in congregational life navigate this liminal pandemic time. Two years ago, in what feels now like a blink of an eye, we changed everything from how we do worship to how we provide pastoral care to how church staff do their jobs, all while experiencing a global crisis that brought grief, anxiety and loneliness like some of us have never experienced before. Now two years later we can add exhaustion and confusion to our lingering symptoms. Progress feels slow. Answers about our future are elusive. Some days it really feels like we’re stuck in the mud and the messiness of the unknowing, stumbling over the rough parts of a road that’s leading us in circles. We’ve taken to calling this time we’re living in liminal, the between.

To get to where we’re going, it’s going to take imagination, creativity and vision. And there’s nothing like story to get our brains working in that way. Here I’ve provided an easy activity for groups to do together in order to start the work of processing and visioning.

Drawing of a river and a tree and garden with text: Prepandemic, Once upon a time we were the keepers of a garden.

What were aspects of your community before the pandemic? What was beautiful and useful about it? What felt fertile and alive? Were there also parts that were neglected, overgrown, messy or under appreciated? Were there improvements that needed to be made? Who cared for the garden, who spent time there?

drawing of a river, tree and fargen with the text: Pandemic - Then a great flood suddenly came upo our land and we watche as the waters rose and covered our garden. Sign says help this way.

What did you do when the pandemic came? What did you salvage, what did you have to let go of? How did you offer help? Where did you take refuge yourself? What new skills did you learn?

drawing of a river with a tree and a path and an empty garden. Sign says THis area is resting please explore the path to the right. Text: Liminal Time. Now that hte waters are receding it's time to grieve the loss of our garden, survey the land, heal and prepare ourselves for the work of replanting.

How are you making space for grief, healing, and introspection? What are you noticing as you move through this time? What feels “muddy and rough*”? This is a time to name griefs, emotions, anxieties, worries as well as the positive noticings.

drawing of a tree with a swing in it, with a river and a bridge, a path, a garden. Text reads: Future. In the future our garden won't look exactly like the one before because we are changed and our land it changed but we know it can be everything we need.

What do you want your community to look like in the future? What old and new values/aspects are important to include in this new design? Who do you want to visit this garden or make a home here? Who will share in the care and upkeep of it? Are there other gardens or lands you want to connect to? Are there skills, materials, or tools that need to be acquired in order to make this vision a reality?

Now if this story needed to live on a book shelf, a librarian might be hard pressed to decide what genre it belongs in. It’s part historical but it’s also futuristic. It’s about love and grief, joy and trauma. It’s spiritual, inspirational and self help rolled into one. Some might even say it’s fantasy. Most I think all will agree there is suspense, an obstacle to get through. And as is the case, when you decide to start telling a story, while the real life story is still unfolding, it won’t end with a conclusion, just a prayer.

As we move down this rough and muddy road, on our way to what we can only imagine,

May we be gentle with ourselves and one another,

And may we embrace unknowing as an invitation to dream and imagine what could be.

About the Author

Shannon Harper

Shannon Harper joined the Lifespan Faith Engagement Office as Co-Director in the summer of 2022. Previously, Shannon worked with the Central East Region since the Fall of 2016.

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