The Chapel of the Cross held its Vacation Church School June 27-July 1. On each of the five days, we used a different Abundant Life Garden Project theme – water, seeds, soil, animals and harvest – calling them “Gifts for the Garden." Every morning, the children gathered for an opening skit, based on Episcopal Relief & Development scripture suggestions. They then rotated through crafts, outdoor play, music and the Garden Center (a hands-on center focusing on the day’s theme).
The children love to see the priests and church staff in costumes – it’s a VCS tradition at our church. The first day, our rector portrayed Moses, following God’s command to strike a rock with his staff so clean water will flow for the thirsty Israelites. Another priest acted as the Good Shepherd who searched for one lost sheep even when he had 99 others. Our parish administrator and administrative assistant played Naomi and Ruth, leaving a land of famine to glean fields in Bethlehem.
These Bible stories started discussions that lasted throughout the mornings, with the last day’s discussion of gleaning being the most complex. One of Farmer Foodshare’s missions is to give the best produce – the greenest, the freshest. We were able to talk, even with the youngest children, about how grateful Ruth felt to have any food at all and to be able to glean in Boaz’s field. Our congregation had recently packed emergency meals for a relief agency. So we were able to discuss the difference between “relief” food – the vitamin-enriched rice meal we had helped pack, and “development” food” – the fresh roots, seeds, leaves and fruit that can be grown locally, as well as what it means to truly share the harvest and break bread together.
We also invited community members – people who are stewards of God’s gifts - to speak. Someone from the town Storm Water Management office brought an interactive “enviroscape” display to help the children learn about clean water and run-off. Another speaker talked about seed sharing. A Department of Environment and Natural Resources staff member brought worms and compost (the children loved the worms). A local science educator brought a chicken! Almost all these guests volunteered their time.
Throughout the week, the children put their learning into action by making crafts to sell: farmers market shopping bags, decorative flower pots, homemade stationery, bread cloths and refrigerator magnets. At a Friday “market,” the children sold their wares for donations and raised a sizeable amount for Farmer Foodshare.
For our parish, focusing on local food insecurity while acknowledging the aim of the Millennium Development Goals to end world hunger was a practical and creative choice. We are grateful to Episcopal Relief & Development for providing the Abundant Life Garden Project – many parents and children called it "the best VCS ever." Our hope is that the participants have left as young stewards of all God’s gifts, and good neighbors to people in extreme poverty and hunger everywhere.
Boykin Bell is Associate in Christian Formation at The Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Photos courtesy of Boykin Bell.
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