St Denys' and St Mark's Joint Benefice

  • The Rectory
  • Mayfield Road
  • Rotherfield
  • East Sussex
  • TN6 3LU

01892 852536
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May 2019  

If the weather forecast is correct, then over the next few days, we can enjoy some fine weather to spend in the garden. Nature is beginning to burst into life with flowers blooming, insects buzzing and the sound of birds giving a pleasing background noise. I hope to spend some time later re-potting some plants and planting seeds in the anticipation of enjoying some breath-taking displays throughout the coming months.

Earlier today, I read of a new campaign which says we should pay less tax on plants 
because they are good for the environment and mental health. In the UK, plants which don't produce food are subject to full VAT (Value Added Tax) at a rate of 20%. Whereas in other European countries, it can be at least half that. It's being backed by the National Garden Scheme at a time when house plants are becoming increasingly popular - particularly among young people who can't afford gardens.

The article included an interview with a young person who was struggling with health issues, and whilst it was not the whole answer to her particular needs, the tending of plants was helping her to relax, be calmer and get life in perspective. She noted how plants take time to grow and develop, likewise in her life she needed to look at the long-term, rather than be overwhelmed with the present. There is no doubt that gardening is good for us and has many benefits. I have always believed that it was no coincidence that the book of Genesis sets the story of creation within a garden, and describes what God has made as ‘good.’ We can appreciate such a setting is scene as an ideal, an ideal environment to work and prosper. Many of us feel at ‘home’ as we tend and care for our gardens and allotments, or plants on a balcony. 

Maybe that is part of being created in the image of our creator, we are at peace when we 
are doing things that have a creative aspect and at the same time provide us with a relaxing and peaceful environment.

Just before Easter, Cathie and I enjoyed a few days at Mucknell Abbey, an Anglican Benedictine Community near to Worcester. Part of the Benedictine ideal, in addition to offering hospitality to visitors, is to create a life balance of spiritual and physical. On the one hand they provide a framework for their work of daily offices (periods of worship) and opportunities for prayer, quiet and contemplation and then within this schedule there is time for physical work and rest. Within their week there are times where the whole community are involved in gardening, planting and developing the land around the abbey, as well as other aspects of their work. Personally, I find the environment helpful as it provides a setting for me to draw-back from the usual business of modern life to contemplate and reflect on life for me. 

Of course, you don’t need to go away to do this, it can be done in your own setting. Like 
me, you may well have a ‘special’ place in your garden to escape to for prayer, stillness and quite reflection. Make sure you enjoy your garden and the wonderful God-given environment to be at peace with yourself and your maker.