While it may feel early to dream of spring with snow still on the ground, the Lenten season holds traditions that can help to prepare congregations both practically and spiritually for a post-Easter, spring activity.
Does your churchyard have a vegetable or flower garden? Most houses of worship have some kind of garden, whether it’s a small patch of tulips or lilies that reveals itself in the spring, or a larger parcel of land designated for growing vegetables for the community.
Christian churches recently marked the beginning of Lent with Ash Wednesday, when congregants receive a cross, made with ash and oil, on their foreheads. The symbol is a reminder of both death and hope– hallmarks of the Lenten season. Traditionally, the ash comes from the burning of palm branches gathered for Palm Sunday the previous year.
While ash represents death and the start of a season of repentance on Ash Wednesday, the very substance of ash holds a life-giving property. Full of nutrients, it can be used as a fertilizer in our gardens.
This year, Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter) will be celebrated on March 20th. If your church is planning to use palms on Palm Sunday, consider setting aside some of the ash from the palms to spread in the church’s garden. Store the ash until the snow has melted, and then mix the ash into the topsoil to nourish the earth and promote new growth.
As your congregation looks forward to Easter, congregants can also look forward to the budding of new life that comes after death, in part represented through new plant growth out of ashes. The spiritual rebirth of the Lenten season will echo in the flourishing of your garden as a visible counterpart to this sacred process.