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Hartselle Enquirer

Have a Biblical garden blooming in your backyard

By Staff
Jerry A. Chenault, Urban Regional Extension Agent New and Nontraditional Programs
Well, Jerry … long time no see! Where've you been? That's what I hear so many times when I bump into someone from the Hartselle area. My answer? In Lawrence County, of course … still working as an Extension agent; but it's a whole new ballgame for me these days. Know why?
Reason is that I have an entirely new assignment since this past September, and I'm now working in the Urban sector of Extension – the new and nontraditional programs division. That division is headquartered at Alabama A&M University. So what does that mean? It means I'm working on "nontraditional" projects in Extension education rather than traditional ones like 4-H, client calls, Master Gardener program, farm and home visits, etc.
I'm now working on projects like commercial beekeeping. I'm in the training (myself) phase on this project right now (as I am on several other projects), but it will eventually involve training new beekeepers for the area. There's a real shortage of honeybees (as pollinators) these days, and that affects everybody.
I'm also working on community gardens; vermiculture (worm production) education and vermicomposting (using worms to compost household garbage); promoting "the Tree City USA" program; and the S.T.A.R. program (Saving Towns Through Asset Revitalization) – which focuses on people/plant interaction, strengthening neighborhood social ties, park revitalizations, greenspace development, etc. Ecumenical (Biblical) gardens are a part of this project.
Haven't heard about Biblical gardens? Well, let me introduce you. Biblical gardens can take many forms but are usually a place of beauty and tranquility … a place for prayer, meditation, and, above all, teaching. Teaching? Absolutely. They're a garden of plants (vegetables, herbs, flowers, spices, crops, shrubs, fruits, trees) that either remind us of stories and scripture from the Bible or are either directly mentioned in scripture. And my goal is to help churches (and others) develop Biblical gardens by providing them with training and educational materials.
I'll give an example of how a Biblical garden could be used by someone in teaching … for example with a Sunday School class. A grape vine is just one of the 128 or so plants that come to mind to teach with. Mentioned so many times in scripture, just imagine the object lessons an arbor covered with bunchgrapes or muscadines could lead to. Jesus did it. And so did Solomon's writings. And Ezekiel. Isaiah used many references to vineyarding when he threatened the people with the judgment to come if they refused to return to God. For example see Isaiah 5:7.
Possibly I can focus on more specific examples of lessons from the vineyard in the days ahead. There are so many. Other examples of plants in a Biblical garden would possibly be almond, apricot, mulberry, myrtle, castor bean, hyssop, wormwood, anemone, lilies, wheat, barley, aloes, and on and on. The possibilities are enormous.
Stay tuned for more information on Ecumenical gardens in the days ahead. I hope you'll be as excited about this project as I am! Shalom!
Editor's Note: Jerry Chenault is an Urban Regional Extension Agent for New &Nontraditional Programs. He can be contacted via e-mail at: jchenaul@aces.edu or by telephone at (256) 974-2464.