Special and Sacred

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Those of you who have been following this blog for any length of time will already know that part of my Pioneer Ministry* work with Methodist Church in Sheffield that some of that ministry takes me to Norwwod Allotments and “The God Plot”**

From this month we now have responsibility for four plots 73,74, 75 and 76 – it’s quite exciting but also quite an undertaking. The plan is that Parson Cross Initiative (Projects) will remain tenant on 75 & 76, and they will transfer 73 & 74 to a new community group called Growing Space that is “specifically designed to be healing and supportive of the well-being and growth of those using the space.” both groups and Share Ministries will  continue to work across all four sites and in partnership with one another.

Although the Sacred Spaces will not be fixed, or designated as such, we are already exploring the rythm and feel of the different spaces. For example, as the first plots people come to Plots 73 & 74 seem to lend themselves to the more “public” spaces such as:

  • Cloister – as a gathering and meeting place
  • Refectory – where hospitality is offered and shared
  • Scriptorium or Library – a space for learning

The presence of the hut on 74 also helps with such spaces (especially at this time of year). The nature of the work we have planned across all four sites make the role of  Infirmary (as a place of healing and well being) integral to all.

Meanwhile Plot 76 is the furtherest plot on the site and can only be accessed through the other plots, it feels a natural space for those places and activities that call for a greater depth and possibly a sense of journeying such as:

  • Cell – as a place of personal, solitarity space
  • Chapel – for community celebration and “confession”

The journey is still a relatively young one and we are deeliberately letting things unfold in their own time, as well as allowing them to be affected by those who use the space, we are in reality building the special and sacred together. Meanwhile the development of “worship” on the sites also continues; in December of coursewe will have Carols on the Allotments, this has in fact been a long standing annual feature of my time involved on the Norwood site and date back to 2010. This coming year however we’re hoping to embrace more celebrations on the various spaces, including:

  • Orchard blessing & wassailing (January)
  • Candlemas (February)
  • Spring Equinox (March)
  • May Day
  • Summer Solstice (June)
  • Lammas (August)
  • Autumn Equinox (September)
  • All Hallows / all souls (October)
  • Carols (December)

 

 

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*Share Ministries

**see The God Plot

 

 

 

“The God Plot”

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Growing spaces have been a characteristic of both Parson Cross Initiative and the pioneer ministry (Share Ministries) that have run through and alongside each other in one form or another since 2010, and it remains a core element of both to this day.

Currently the charity* operates three separate growing spaces:

  • A community “quiet garden” in partnership with Cross at Yew Lane**
  • A community orchard and growing space at Mount Tabor Methodist Church
  • And a community allotment (Plot76) at Norwood Allotments

Each space is different, and each has its own character, even though a number of those involved are common to at least more than one space. Of the three, it is Plot76 that is the major focus for Share Ministries, a fact that has earned it the unsolicited nickname amongst other allotmenteers as “The God Plot”. So what you might ask marks out this plot to earn it such a title?

I guess one easy answer is that I’m there – people know who and what I am, that is a Pioneer Minister in the Methodist Church. Sure they don’t always understand the “pioneer” bit, and I get quite often the “wrong” denominational title; “Father”, “Pastor”, “Vicar” and the like, but essentially, and intentionally people recognise what I am. However, I think (and I suppose hope) there’s a bit more to it than that.

From the charitys perspective Plot76 is all about social inclusion, this offers one big advantage to me in how I operate in the space in that it isn’t at any level simply about growing food. The plot is a place of community, of belonging – a space where people can come as just “be”, obviously we do grow things, we dig, we plant and sow and come the time we harvest and enjoy the fruits of the season, but primarily it’s about involvement. From the perspective of my ministry on the site, I aim to help create a sense of a Special and Sacred space.

The shelter that has been built is known as (and has a sign to prove it) Sanctuary; a place of refuge. It offers both personal space, but also a “chapel” space particularly when we hold our seasonal gatherings; when we mix music and poetry and reflection, with food and drink (non alcoholic of course being a good Methodist***). It is without doubt (because people have told me) also used during the week at times I’m not there as a place for quiet chats, personal time outs and contemplation.To use quasi monastic terms, the space provides a number of sacred spaces at different times:

  • Cell – as a place of personal, solitarity space
  • Chapel – for community celebration and “confession”
  • Cloister – as a gathering and meeting place
  • Refectory – where hospitality is offered and shared
  • Infirmary – as a place of healing and well being

My regular slot there is on a Thursday morning, when my role becomes that of host – I light the storm kettle and ensure a steady flow of tea and coffee, as well as being a listening ear, and ocassional gardener. Over the years the space has been used for conversations covering a wide range including; addictions and mental health issues, dealing with the loss of  loved ones, the difficulties with coping with deteriorating health, family breakdown, and the nature of Jesus.

Why and how do these conversations happen here? Well I suppose one reason is that I allow them to, encourage them to happen. Allow them to by offering space that is not judgemental and that allows a genuine flow between the secular and sacred, the spectacular and mundane and does not mark the difference, a space that doesn’t seek to provide answers, but allows chance to challenge and encounter. Encouraging them to by being responsive to the relationship that are there, acknowledging the difficulties (where they are present, and they are as in most places) and by sharing myself, my time, my life, my own vulnerabilities – I am not there as expert (gardening or otherwise), I’m not there to be “in control”****,  I’m there simply as companion, as friend, as partner in a shared journey.

 

Is it Church? Not in its entireity, although for some of us there it performs much of the role of church, what it is  is just what it is …. and I’m only too happy to know that to others and to me it’s simply “The God Plot”.

 


* The “charity” being Parson Cross Initiative (Projects) it was given charitable status in 2017 with the registered charity number 1172288
** The Cross at Yew Lane is also home to Creswick Greave Methodist Church
*** The alcohol ban also serves an important purpose as some of those attending activities on the plot have had issues with alcohol and addiction in the past
**** The issue of how we choose to hold power and authority and how we choose to exercise it is an important issue, and especially important I think in pioneer ecclesiology