Lockdown provided the perfect opportunity to start a new project amongst residents in Old Town, Poole. Paul Bradbury reflects on the genesis of BH15 Grow Together.

Churches and Christians up and down the country have been responding to the challenge of coronavirus in lots of creative ways. Whilst churches have adapted to online worship they have also responded to what’s going on in their communities; providing food, helping connect isolated people etc.

In many places there has also been a blossoming of community as local people have got together to support one another. In our street, whilst we were shielding and feeling pretty disconnected, the neighbourhood really came together through a WhatsApp group, a weekly online pub quiz and chats after Clap For Carers. As lockdown eased there was a sense that we all wanted to keep up this great experience of solidarity.

For some time I’d been thinking about an idea of growing vegetables together as a way of connecting people and now seemed a good time to suggest it. The idea went down really well and so, after a few weeks sorting out permission from the landowner, a group of us put in 2 raised beds and planted a load of veg.

Fast work!

The project caught the eye of local radio resulting in an interview and short piece on the project on BBC Radio Solent’s Dorset Breakfast.

But the really exciting thing is seeing this little patch of land act as a catalyst for building relationships and community. To rediscover community we need to create the kind of ‘bumping into one another’ spaces that communities thrive on, the equivalent of the school gate or the local shop. Sharing a ‘commons’ is also a really powerful way of developing solidarity and cohesion, that is a resource that people invest in and share together. It may be small but we now have a ‘commons’ in our street!

Many people in lockdown have sensed a desire for a different kind of life, a ‘new normal’ that acknowledges that the old normal was unhealthy and (for many) unhappy. Community with those we live amongst is definitely one of those desires. I believe these desires are yearnings for the ‘fullness of life’ that Jesus talked about – a life where all our relationships are healed; with creation, with one another and with God. Our role as the church is to witness to that life, by modelling it in community as well as inviting people to consider it for themselves. In a very small way we are seeking to do that in the community garden.

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