Bringing God’s Garden Inside

Weekly Reflection, Friday, August 20

By: Jan Betts

“The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One’s nearer to God’s heart in a garden,
Than anyplace else on earth”
Dorothy Francis Gurney

When I was a child, on a Sunday afternoon we used to walk to the public park, a beautiful green manicured area with formal flower beds and swing parks and a bowling green. Not that the two latter were considered Sunday fare in post-war west of Scotland. A sedate walk, still in Sunday school clothes was all that was considered proper (according to my Granny).

The park was only a short walk from our house, and on the corner just before the park gates, there was a house with a beautiful garden. Every kind of perennial you could think of grew there, and the daily Scottish rain showers ensured their continued survival. There was a small tidy lawn, and in the middle was a sun dial with a square capital. Around the edge was this little poem, and we could read the first three lines, but try as we might we could never get into the right position to read the last line. In these pre-Google days, we had no way of finding out, and even our Granny (who had God’s ear as far as we could tell) could not finish the stanza for us. Then came the red-letter day when my father simply jumped over the wall – my sister and I were scandalized and thrilled all at once – it was so out of character for him or anyone to step on someone else’s property. But we walked on home hugging this last line of the poem to our breast. The child that I was, was sure that this prayer was true, and that to have access to God’s heart, you only had to be in a garden of flowers.

Many, many years later, I am no less convinced that this is true, and when I was first asked to join St. Mary’s Altar Guild about 30 years ago, I felt it was an invitation to be bringing God’s garden inside.

The incredible energy that our Clergy and church staff expended to bring the church to us during the pandemic was heroic, but we all missed each other, and missed being in church. Our Altar Guild group was lucky enough to be first in line for decorating behind the Altar when we returned to indoor worship, and May was a wonderful month for exuberant flowers. After all the time of forced separation, we were a little anxious that we should do it right, and not trip up, or have too many people in too small a space. David assured us that all would be well, and that if we did our best, God would know. On our last weekend for set up, everyone on our team turned up—far too many to do the job required, but we were so happy to be with each other—to be giving advice about flower placement, to be moving the candles just so, and to be again blessed by being in God’s garden