Beginning in Summer 2013, steps were taken to plan and implement the planting of a "St Francis Garden" to the East of the Narthex, with the possibility of expansion to other areas of the church grounds should resources and utility permit. With the Bishop Committee's approval, David Carlisle drew up a proposal for planting various biblical species to create a garden that would serve both as a witness to creation care and eventually as a place to commemorate the companion animals of parishioners. As such, the aim was to tie it into both the Blessing of the Animals on or around St Francis' feast day and the children's ministry.
The garden has now been planted with various biblical species (Fig, Grape, Pomegranate, Rue, Hyssop, Mint, Crocus, and Ladanum), and the labor and expenses involved in conditioning the soil, obtaining the specimens, and planting the garden have all been borne by private donation. In September of 2014 Fr. Peter Van Hook purchased and installed a resin statue of St. Francis to commemorate the Saint and mark the garden as dedicated to him, until such a time as a more lasting bronze statue may be installed by private donation as a memorial or thanks offering. Given the composition of the statue, it must be removed to the indoors during the winter months, and currently graces our library; it will be returned to its place in the spring. At the Blessing of the Animals in October the garden was officially dedicated, and though work still remains to be done (especially in such a way as to fulfill the two primary goals of the garden, viz. to provide a space for the commemoration of companion animals and to involve the children in a ministry that can teach them the importance of creation care), the initial phase of the garden is thus closed.
In the year ahead, plans proposed will be discussed to establish an office to care for the garden that might be undertaken by interested individuals, especially children; the maple tree that has now outgrown its space should be moved (the crucial window of opportunity slipped past us last year); further plantings may be undertaken, possibly including container plants and possibly expanding to the west of the narthex; a permanent platform for the statue may be set up; and labels for the species, including references to their appearance in scripture, may be set up. Finally, further exploration of the best way to incorporate the cremains of companion animals and to memorialize their placement will be undertaken. Offers of assistance for any and all of these further developments would be, as always, most welcome.
St. Francis of Assisi was the son of a wealthy silk salesman, who chose a monastic poverty and sainthood. He is the founder of the Franciscan order of Monks, he was a preacher who hoped to end the crusades, and he was a lover of all things given of God. He believed that nature itself was reflection of God, and in his one of his most famous works, "Canticle of Creatures," he praises all aspects of life, including illness, poverty, and death. His example of discipleship and of Christ-like love have made him one of the most popular Saints in Christendom.
To Celebrate his feast day, Each October on the Saturday closest, Episcopalians and other Christians from around the world bring their pets to church for a blessing. This tradition is among our favorites, here at St. Mary's. At this outdoor service ferrets, kittens, dogs, turtles, and even horses come with their humans to be blessed with long life and companionship. This blessing reminds us of our stewardship and friendship that we owe these creatures of Gods.
Remarks from the Rev. Richard Weissert