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FALL 2020
 A Growing Partnership
  By Heather Chappell, Stewardship & Planned Giving
At one time, a section of the lawn at Morningside-High Park (MHP) Pres- byterian Church in Toronto, Ont., was a gated lawn bowling pitch. It was off limits to anyone who wasn’t a mem- ber. Now, that same space houses a community garden. It is a place where neighbourhood families come to sit and enjoy some cool shade on a hot day; where children pick sweet strawberries; and where vegetables are planted and tended so that fresh produce can be shared with those who need it.
Established in 2013, on the initia- tive of the Rev. Dr. Karen Dimock (now minister at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Ottawa) and MHP member Fiona Yeudall, the garden is one of a long line of projects that the congre- gation has embraced as it strives to be a greener community with a com- mitment to reduce, reuse and recycle. This includes solar panels, which were installed in 2013 and continue to feed energy back into the power grid.
Faith-based gardening is an oppor- tunity to put faith into action through community outreach. Gina McKenzie- Lodge recalls that as a new member, the garden project was the perfect opportunity for her to get involved. In 2014, the congregation built up the garden with cedar-bed boxes, includ- ing one that was accessible by wheel- chair, walker or chair. Plants were star ted from seed, and vegetables grew in abundance. That year, almost 600 pounds of produce was shared with the congregation, community and people in need!
During the busy summer months, it can be difficult to find the consistent labour needed to maintain a garden, and the past two seasons have been sparse. Yet the garden was not dis- mantled.
Then came COVID-19. Suddenly, people had time to spare. They were looking for ways to connect, for places to volunteer, for oppor tunities to make a meaningful and impactful difference. A woman who recently moved into a condo in the neighbourhood noticed the church gardens while passing by.
She emailed to ask if she could clean up the flower garden, since she no longer had a backyard and needed some gardening therapy. She said, “I know that this space is valued by the community, especially now during these trying times.”
The Rev. Janet Ryu-Chan says that the vegetable garden is thriving during COVID-19 because of partnership. Windermere United Church connected MHP with Neighbours Helping Neigh- bours, a local group that matches volunteers with requests for help. This par tnership provided access to com- munity members that would never have been reached otherwise. Janet asked for donations of plants as well as volunteers to weed, water, harvest and deliver produce. And people re- sponded. Seedlings—tomatoes, pep- pers, Swiss chard and basil—were donated by a nearby community garden that had surplus plants. There are now 10 volunteers—seven from the community, and three from the church.
Janet shared, “Despite everything, our garden has managed to survive. It’s a little miracle. I really believe it was for such a time as this. And God has put people in place and made it possible for us to provide fresh pro- duce for those who are experiencing food insecurity.”
MHP is a small congregation, but because of these par tnerships, they are able to accomplish more than they could have imagined during a time of pandemic.
When the produce is ready for har- vesting, MHP plans to par tner with Sistering, a multi-service agency for at-risk, socially isolated women and trans people who are homeless or precariously housed; and Romero House, which provides transitional housing and settlement services for refugee claimants through a model of accompaniment.
In 2020, MHP’s stewardship cam- paign centred around Matthew 10, “Freely you have received, freely give.” The community garden ties into this theme nicely—generosity, growth and hard work resulting in harvest.
There is a wildness to the garden right now. Janet laughs, “There are weeds growing everywhere! And yet the tomatoes are still growing, the peppers are still’s a won- derful reminder that life goes on. Life is messy. Community is messy. Yet in the messiness, there is great beauty.”
It is because of par tnership—with Windermere United Church, Neigh- bours Helping Neighbours, church members, community members— that the garden will impact the lives of people who are struggling.
Janet says, “There’s no way MHP could have done this on our own. That’s what I really want to get across. It’s only because we were able to con- nect with others. It’s all about partner- ship. And of course, it’s also about God working in peoples’ hear ts. The Creator has been sowing seeds so that par tnerships can begin and grow in God’s time.”
Gina adds, “I am so glad to see the garden still thriving and fresh food being donated. It is just incredible to have been par t of star ting something so amazing and positive. I always felt that the garden was to be a sign of hope and life for the community.”
The Rev. Janet Ryu-Chan and Morningside-High Park Presbyterian Church mem- ber Ben Oliver weeding the community garden.
    The virtual choir at First Presbyterian Church in Collingwood, Ont.
Connections in Collingwood
By Marlene Weatherall, First Presbyterian Church in Collingwood, Ont.
First Presbyterian Church in Colling- wood, Ont., has continued to reach out in God’s love, into the lives of each other and into the world, even during COVID-19 restrictions. While congregants miss gathering for Sun- day morning worship in our beautiful sanctuary, our live-streamed worship services have been very successful and well-attended. We have been able to reach not only our own con- gregants, but also family members and friends from far and wide who would not normally be able to attend in person.
Connection to all of our congregants has been maintained through weekly email communications from the min- ister and the director of pastoral care. Those who are not accessible on- line are contacted over the phone by
members of our Pastoral Care team. First Presbyterian Church is blessed to have a very active music ministry. The presence of the praise band and worship choir is missed by everyone, especially by the singers and our music director, who cherish the fellowship of Thursday practices. In an attempt to recapture that fel- lowship, members of the choir have been sharing their singing virtually in our live-streamed services so that we all can enjoy the choir remotely. What
a blessing.
A number of our members are
gifted with artistic talent and have been lending their skills to craft Easter cards, Mother’s Day cards with handmade beaded bracelets en- closed, and Father’s Day cards with painted friendship rocks. All were distributed personally for each occa- sion. Birthdays and graduations have also been recognized.
Distanced coffee and conversa-
tion gatherings have been enjoyed (in groups of five at a time) in the First Presbyterian Cemetery Chapel. Meetings and activities take place on a regular basis online with families, teen communicants, youth groups and the Sunday School.
As restrictions are loosened and the church begins to plan its reopen- ing, we intend to keep these new initiatives in place to complement traditional Sunday worship.

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