Gardening Stories shared from Union Chapel’s Spring 2021 Newsletter

Janelle’s Garden

Growing fruits and vegetables is a spiritual practice

Just a couple of years ago, Janelle Senator, who lives on West Harbor near Dock Beach, created in her front sun-drenched yard an organic garden where she grows a variety of fruits and vegetables to share with family, friends, and her community. “I’ll leave some at your door,” I hear her call to a passerby, referring to some freshly picked herbs or cucumbers.

Janelle’s community-mindedness is wonderful enough. But what you might not know is that Janelle finds gardening a spiritual practice, one that she has fallen in love

with and has become more than a hobby for her. Growing plants has put her in touch with the marvels of God’s creation through the beauty, diversity, and resilience of the plants in her garden. “I love learning about all the different varieties and what they need,” Janelle says. “I am always looking up stuff on the internet and talking with other gardeners.”

Janelle considers her time spent planting and tending plants an opportunity for meditation. If one could see the garden from an aerial view, one would notice that the plants are arranged in the shape of a woman kneeling in prayer. In addition, as Janelle kneels at the base of plants to weed and trim, she plays audio of scripture readings in her earbuds.

My many conversations with her have helped me rediscover the deep meaning of Jesus’s use of metaphors from nature in his teachings. The ways of nature surely have things to teach us. Janelle’s tender care demonstrates the joy of stewardship, the assignment God gives us in Genesis when it comes to taking care of the earth. Stewardship, as Janelle so beautifully understands, is not just a task, but a spiritual practice that offers joy once we embrace it.

By Rev. Candace Whitman



If you’re out of mustard seeds…

If anyone knows me well, they have to be aware that I love plants. I have them all over the house taking in carbon dioxide and giving off oxygen. Can’t help it, it is the scientist in me. Unfortunately, with the “aging thing”, I can’t maintain my outside gardens so I do my “gardening thing” indoors. I love the challenge of finding a broken leaf or carefully cutting one off and trying to root it. My favorite successes are growing African violets and avocado plants. I have way too many African violets – does anyone want a free one?

Several years ago, I rooted and planted an avocado pit. It was very happy sitting in the corner window in my kitchen behind the kitchen sink, loving the southeast exposure to sunlight and reminding me to water it. It kept growing so I was afraid I would either have to get rid of it or cut a hole in my kitchen ceiling. I elected the former. I could always buy some new avocadoes, make some guacamole dip, and start to root a new one. At that time my friend Mary Pankiewicz was packing up to head for Florida and stopped by to say goodbye. I asked her in jest if she wanted the avocado plant to take south because I was ready to toss it up in the woods to get rid of it. Mary and I sometimes do silly things so we joked about her trying to fit it in the car, yet she decided to take it. In the end, we decided to give her a name, Ava. So began her journey.

After a two-day trip with Ava and Peanut, they arrived and Mary and Dave Denison planted Ava in their back yard. Avocados love the warm, sunny, moist climate plus she received water from an automatic watering system all summer long when Mary and Dave were back on the Island. The photo is a recent snapshot, (Dave holding their cat Peanut) in front of Ava today. We are trying to figure out how tall she is today – probably about 25’ tall. No avocados yet, but that is to be expected. At least she provides a little shade during the heat of the day.

I can’t help but think of a recent Scripture reading I read in Upper Room. It is 1 Corinthians 3:6 – “I planted, Apollo watered but God gave the growth.” To change that around a bit, Mary, Dave and I planted, we watered but God gave the growth. I guess the life lesson we can take from this is if we have patience and provide a little love and care in all we do, God will take over.

By Diane Dawson Dexter

P.S. Ava may be getting a relative – I just started a new avocado and it already is about a foot tall.


Our Beautiful Bulb Garden-to-be

When the pandemic made an in-person Easter service impossible last year, we had to rethink how we could maintain our tradition of donations for Easter flowers in the sanctuary. Thanks to David Burnham and Race Rock, we decided to accept donations for daffodil bulbs and create a new swath of bulbs at the church.

Here is Ryan about a month ago getting the bulbs in the ground. The new bed will wrap around the property at the intersection of Montauk and Crescent, complementing the daffs that spring up so joyfully near our parking lot every spring.

Thank you to all who have contributed to our new spring garden! Here’s hoping that the view of dancing heads of daffodils will provide a moment of “sanctuary” for drivers rounding our corner!

By Rev. Candace Whitman


March 2021

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