A huge thank you to the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale and Toronto for approving the 2021 Runnymede United Church Creation Care Garden grant! What a joy this project has been to not only build a garden, but to build relationships and raise spirits in what has been such a challenging time on so many levels. We are happy to provide our final annual report for this year and share how our Creation Care Garden indeed allowed for the creation of so many things.
During the Covid-19 lock down periods, the doors to Runnymede United Church were forced to close to in-person gatherings. Like so many, we have pivoted providing resources and programming virtually, and creating an online community. In late winter 2021, while we were awaiting news of if and when we could re-open our doors, specifically to the Sunday School and Youth Groups & their families, our minds were moving towards Spring/Summer planning and hoping outdoors could be a safe way to connect.
Our Faith Formation committee members came up with the idea to cultivate a native pollinator garden surrounding our Church sign on the front lawn.
This garden would help to further beautify the land, providing a corridor of shelter and food for butterflies, birds, and insects on their migratory paths, as well as serving as a project to safely engage church members, local community folks, and our on-site daycare and nursery schools, with nature.
Our plan unfolded in four phases: Planning and Communications, Design and Breaking Ground, Children’s Activities and Decorations, and Maintenance. Once we received approval from the Church board, along with some funding support, we eagerly applied for and were approved for the garden grant through the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale and Toronto. We then proceeded to work with other church committees to engage members. Discussions with local gardening experts, and review of past projects from the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale and Toronto proved to be excellent resources. Our garden map included a realistic size for our inaugural year, as well as planning to have tree stumps and stepping stones allowing the space to be interactive and easy to work around and within. Developing a list of native plants, building materials, suppliers and costs, and to-do jobs on-site helped us stay on track and within our timeline and budget. Throughout our planning, communications in our newsletter, lawn sign and social media posts helped to keep not only church members up to date, but also drew people to our project from the wider community. Through this process, we learned that many people in the city were searching for a safe outdoor community project to lend a hand to and connect with others.
Build day was great fun with a group of enthusiastic adults and kids ready to get muddy in the rain, and as we completed our planting, the sun came out to shine down on us. In the weeks that followed, back-to-back…to-back heat waves were hard on the newly planted garden, but volunteers watered diligently and helped the plants thrive in their new home.
Since the planting, the new space has been lovingly cared for and admired by passers-by and the space has provided a lovely, engaging socially distanced meeting area for the summer Vacation Bible Camp, fall in-person Sunday school and youth programs, and after Church fellowship. Painted prayer stones, which the children had fun decorating, are sprinkled around the garden, and we look forward to spring flowers from the fall bulb planting session. Plans for further teachable moments are underway including sharing to the youth and teens about plant life cycles, the importance of native plants and habitats, environmental conservation, plant labeling in both indigenous and common form, and edible plant tutorials. Our advent display and lights now raise spirits around the upcoming holiday season, making the Creation Care garden truly a space to enjoy year-round!
Thanks to all who participated in the process and build of the RUC Creation Care Garden, and a special thanks to the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale and Toronto for allowing it to come into fruition.
Garden Project Leads
Brenda Lien (Whitell) (L) and Stephanie Fischer (R)