Rest, Reflect, Restore – A Summer 2023 ‘Spirit Glen Update’
What can a church lawn do for its community? In 2016, a group of five Pictou United Church gardeners pondered this very question, beginning a journey that would see a well-manicured lawn with mature plantings of shade trees and shrubs transformed into a contemplative garden. When approached, the congregation was warmly receptive to the proposal, offering suggestions such as the choir director’s naming the importance of a performance space. Hence was born our elegant gazebo from which summer worship services and occasional evening concerts are conducted.
Eventually named “Spirit Glen”, a distillation of suggestions offered as part of the September 2019 dedication service, the garden was ready just in time to provide a welcoming gathering space during the pandemic. Individuals sought solace, friends met, committees conducted business, rehearsals were held, our minister provided counsel, we worshipped, prayer shawls were knit, all in a space that had been very much a construction zone through the summer of 2019. Christmas Eve worship 2020 under a starry sky was especially magical.
With sandstone entrance signs inviting visitors to “rest, reflect, restore”, they can sink into meditation as they trace the “Tree of Life” sandstone finger labyrinth to the music of the water feature built of local grindstones, linger in the graceful gazebo over a book from the Little Free Library, bask in the sunshine on a gently curving bench, chalk thoughts on our Ponderings Door or scribe them into the Garden Journal, seek inspiration from three Spirit Guide art panels by celebrated Mi’kmaq artist Alan Syliboy, revel in the sensory-rich panorama of diverse plantings.
A deeply spiritual atmosphere resonates throughout the garden. Recently, the curving gravel pathway was upgraded by North Shore Ballast and Concrete Works to a brushed concrete surface thanks to partnership funding through a Community Access-Ability Program grant from the NS Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage, advancing our commitment to maximum accessibility. The western entrance is level, a stainless-steel handrail is anchored into concrete footings on the gentle slope at the eastern entrance, the gazebo has no steps or enclosure, and some benches are immediately off the pathway. Our black walnut tree, felled by Hurricane Fiona, has been milled into planks soon to be fashioned into a live edge tree-embracing bench.
Sound pricey? Thanks to Embracing the Spirit’s Innovation and Growth Grants from the United Church of Canada, together with numerous local and provincial grants and generous celebratory and memorial donations, that initial group of five gardeners, with the support of other members of the congregation, are able to focus their efforts on maintaining the garden rather than conducting fundraising events.
So, we invite you to engage in a sensual celebration of creation through the caress of diversely textured foliage, nature’s harmonious symphony of sounds, nibbling on the fruits of the earth, the visual beauty of plant and art, savoring the scent of herb and flower. Spirit Glen, located at the corner of James and Faulkland Streets, is open to one and all 24/7/365.