• Jordan D. Smith

Nazarene Church Plants “Community Garden”

Like many of us with excess time on their hands over the past year during quarantine and stay at home orders, Portlander Ashleigh Massey tried her hand at gardening. Finding that she had a bit of a green thumb she decided to share the wealth as it were and approached her pastor, Jimmy Guffey at Portland Church of the Nazarene, about establishing a garden on the church property. Earlier in 2020, the church on Cutler Road’s long time daycare closed due to inability to find a qualified director leaving behind a fenced in play area perfect to establish a garden free from pests and deer.

Not one to talk much about herself, Massey said she wanted to establish a community garden because, “I felt God pulling me to do it because there’s a need.” That need specifically is providing fresh vegetables to those in need in the Portland community. Unlike most community gardens tended by community members communally and sharing the produce, Pastor Guffey, “...noted that this isn’t a community garden in the traditional sense, in that it is not a garden that is tended by the community but rather one that is tended by volunteers from the church for the benefit of the community.”

Pastor Guffey sees this project as a continuation of the church's earlier efforts at addressing hunger in the local community. While Portland has several food pantries, one thing that is often lacking is fresh or perishable type foods. “When the pandemic first began and people were laid off... we put select food items in an outdoor refrigerator located behind the church, where people could come discreetly and take what they needed with no questions asked.” The effort ran through the spring and summer of 2020 until the weather turned and the community refrigerator was moved to the entry way at Epic Community Church where it could be out of the elements. “No matter how often we restocked the fridge, the food never lasted long!,” Pastor Guffey said, “people were utilizing the service, and we recognized the need was greater than we thought. Our hope is that the community garden will function in a similar way, with people coming at select times to take what they need for their families.”

Massey got started building planting beds, and boxes about a month ago and has been gradually transplanting seedlings as the weather grows warmer. That effort included building “hot tunnels” to protect the young plants earlier this month. Asked why she decided to attack the problem of hunger by planting a garden, Massey said simply, “I have the ability to do so and so I am.” “Above all,” says Pastor Guffey, “we want our community to know that we love them with the love of Jesus, and we want to put our love in action. God has blessed us so that we might be a blessing to others, and, like the refrigerator, we hope that God uses the community garden to bless the community it serves.” As produce gets ready to harvest later this summer, readers can keep apprised by following Portland Church of the Nazarene on Facebook.

PHOTO: Courtesy Ashleigh Massey.

DISCLAIMER: Jordan Smith is a member of Portland Church of the Nazarene.

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