Some of you may have read an article about prison gardens in Monday’s Washington Post [Prison Gardens, article], and if you are anything like me, your response was a big “DUH”. Of course nurturing something, in this case fruits and vegetables, will have a transformative effect on anyone. I’ve read about programs that pair prisoners with animals and have the same kinds of results – dramatically reduced recidivism; kinder, less stressed inmates who gain a sense of accomplishment from their efforts and who are eager to transfer their new found skills into productive work outside of prison. Love will grow anytime we are caring for something. Animals, vegetables, ideas, people. And being reciprocally nurtured is equally transformational, as any healthy garden will attest.
At St. Alban’s this coming Sunday we’ll sing two hymns about gardening. Well, really they’re about growing God’s love through our lives, but let’s say they’re about gardening. Images of planting and growing are abundant throughout our Christian narrative, and such useful metaphors they are. After all, we couldn’t survive if we didn’t harvest what has been planted, and I think we could make a case for our inability to survive without nurturing the seed of God’s love in each of us.
Nancy Roth, in her lovely book of meditations on hymns writes: I think that the seed is the potential for love: love of God, love of ourselves as God’s creation and love of others…will we make it possible for love to put down roots, by providing the deep soil of prayer and reflection? (A Closer Walk: Meditating on Hymns for Year A, p. 171)
Hymns are prayers too, and the two gardening hymns we’ll sing here at St. Alban’s this Sunday are Father, we thank thee who hast planted (The Hymnal 1982, Hymn 302, ) and Almighty God, your word is cast like seed upon the ground (Hymn 588) [Texts, Hymns 302 and 588]. Whether you sing or simply listen to them on Sunday, perhaps they will nurture something in you that grows into a beautiful and nourishing love.
I wasn’t able to find recordings of either hymn that I thought were worth sharing with you, but there is something else. St. Alban’s celebrated former Director of Music Norman Scribner (1936-2015) in a big way last Sunday, and while the service included many pieces that he was known to have loved, one of his favorite hymn didn’t make the cut, and as a final tribute I include it here. A hymn with its own gardening theme:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2eSfKqMRbA