Gardening & Conferences

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Gardening & Conferences

“Gardening has been profoundly transformative.
It has taught me more than I’ve ever known 
about co-creation, trust and the joy of playful experimentation.” 
(Meg Riley, Senior Minister, Church of the Larger Fellowship)

Have you started your garden this year? Mine is just starting to take shape, in a new corner of the yard, plied with additional organic matter to raise the bed. It is orderly and beautiful and appeals to the parts of me, and particularly my partner, that like neatness and order. 

But I know the truth about gardens, the truth that I know she doesn’t like to acknowledge: Once things grow, the garden gets messy. The tomato vines move over into the pepper plant’s space, the basil grows tall and starts to choke out the marigolds living somewhere below. The thyme, a low grower, might be overshadowed by the dill that continues to reach its spiny little leaves upward toward the sun. A vine heavy with fruit is going to fall over and a squirrel might pick off a few tomatoes and leave them in the patch of parsley. Weeds will grow, even after my best attempt at shielding the garden from them with mulch and newspaper. By the end of the summer some things will move from flower to fruit to seeds – large brown heads of seeds, dried up, and scattered on the ground assure that in the spring, left untouched by the gardener, a cacophony of volunteer plants will reign.

The ecosystem, which looks so neat and orderly right now with its mulched brown paths and clear margins will get blurry by the end of the summer. I know this. No matter how many hours I think I can spend in the garden trying to control its wild and unbridled growth, I know this. No matter how much I assure my partner that I will “take care” of the garden, I know this. Secretly, it is what I love best about the garden – its wildness and its unpredictability. The weather, the rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks, each seed and its potential, insects and me: we are all players in this community.

The booklet of Ferry Beach conference offerings is neat with its beautiful photographs and careful layout, each page more beckoning than the next. Schedules, supply lists, staff lists, menus are all neatly tucked into specific folders, waiting. Templates for the Tidings daily newsletter are being created, and summer staff has been hired. Many people have registered and are making their plans to take off work and travel to Ferry Beach. Everyone is coming with their own expectations of the way the conference will go, each of us with our own diverse set of ideas.

And then we’ll meet at the beginning of our conference week and create community. The neatness of the schedules will give way to the fog or rain. The people who couldn’t come, or the burdens and joys brought by others, will influence our community. We’ll be here, making our way, contributing our specialness to the ecosystem of the conference. Our synergy will create community and it will be perfect in its own unique wildness and unpredictability. And most of us, (some secretly) will love it. We’ll allow our faith in our intentions as a group of people to reign, to teach us about diversity, love, co-creation, and living in the present moment. And we will celebrate our harvest! 

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