Emmanuel Newport wins national grant to grow gardens and spirituality

by Dave Seifert

Thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Episcopal Church, some formerly unusable space at Emmanuel Church in Newport will become home to hydroponic crops.

Emmanuel is one of 16 churches and related organizations receiving Stewardship of Creation grants  in the latest awards from the Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation.

The initiative will combine hands-on gardening with prayer and meditation that’s intended to develop the spirituality of students at the Emmanuel Day School. The focus comes from a passage in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.”

Students from Salve Regina University, also in Newport, will play a key role in the project, guiding the setup of the hydroponic planting beds — as they’ve done at other area sites — and training Emmanuel parishioners in how to take care of the gardens.

“It’s one thing to use available space and to use it for a good cause,” noted the Rev. Anita Louise Schell, rector. “But this is a partnership with our school and with Salve. And, we will be creating food that can be used in our soup kitchen.”

The day school students will participate in meditations based on themes of earth, air, fire and water, with suitable prayers for each as well as information about how each of these is necessary for growth to occur.

The students also will learn to take care of existing raised-bed gardens on the grounds of the parish (supervised by Emmanuel gardener Courtney Crimi), and will work with the Salve students to take care of the hydroponic plants.

“Each step of the process will include prayers and meditations we develop specifically for them,” Schell explained. “It’s important to reflect on what you’re doing, and the gardens can be a formative piece.”

The students will start the seeds in organic starter cubes, monitor growth and provide necessary maintenance under the supervision of the gardeners.  When ready, the plants will be harvested.

Schell emphasized that some of the food will be shared with the day school students “because it’s never too early to develop a taste for fresh vegetables.” Additionally, some will go to the Emmanuel Soup Kitchen and still more will likely be taken home by parishioners.”

“Sometimes community gardens give away all their food, which can create a dynamic of ‘us vs. them’,” she said. “We’re all in this project together. We want everything we do to be shared with the community and shared in different ways.”

The project is a natural extension of the existing deeply rooted commitment to environmental stewardship Emmanuel has lived out for the past several years.

The Advisory Council was created by General Convention 2015, enabled by approval of a resolution, and charged with the responsibility to develop a grant process to support local ecologically responsible stewardship of church-related properties and buildings.

“I think it’s important for all of us to think creatively about how to use our beautiful, old buildings, not be discouraged by how much work it takes to make programs happen,” Schell said. “The really great joys are celebrating our opportunity to in all places be environmental stewards, and what increases that joy is by doing it with other organizations — doubling the fun.”