Revd Beth Honey, Pioneer Minister of Derwent Oak Fresh Expressions Church, lights candles in her garden to unite the local community.
Our garden has always been an important place of gathering and encounter for Derwent Oak (Derby City).
It is a place we learned to ask for help more than offer it, in the early days of living in Derby as we asked our neighbours to a gardening party.
It is the place we first realised people would help us host a party, and come to one, when we had a bonfire.
But when we realised that we wouldn’t be able to meet again in homes, which is the heart of Derwent Oak, for many months, the garden began to speak again.
Could we open it, even in lock down?
So, we simply shared a thought on Facebook in our group and on the pages we host and are connected to.
Did anyone want us to light a candle on a Thursday evening, for someone or something that mattered to them that they had lost, whether or not due to Covid-19.
People have steadily asked us to do that, people we know, friends of friends online, connections through volunteering through the local Covid-19 response hub, and strangers connecting through social media.
We dream that slowly people may come to light candles as individuals and small groups, and have begun to commission some local artists to create pieces to enhance the garden as a place of encounter.
We hope to blend community on and offline.
Part of the story of this season is lament and grief that has been suppressed by circumstance, and part of the motivation of these candles is to find expression in a place where people often lack confidence to connect to church, even when the doors are open.
A simple invitation closer to home is perhaps what is needed, and outdoors may be a safe space for more reasons than we realise.