Out & About: Hope Garden sprouts outside First Congregational Church in Woodstock

  • Inspirational messages cover the sidewalk in front of the First Congregational Church in Woodstock as part of the church’s Hope Garden. Photograph courtesy of Doug Warren

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/22/2020 9:19:37 PM
Modified: 4/22/2020 9:19:29 PM

WOODSTOCK — The First Congregational Church in Woodstock has started a new garden.

But it is not a traditional garden in the sense that it is filled with flowers and other plants. Instead, the Hope Garden is a collection of words of encouragement and Bible verses written on signs and on the sidewalk at church located at 36 Elm St.

“We were thinking what are ways we can encourage our neighbors?” Doug Warren, senior pastor, asked.

He and others at the church drew inspiration from brightly colored eggs that appeared around the village for a virtual Easter egg hunt and teddy bears that have appeared in windows around town.

“That just got us thinking about, what are ways we could give a little bit of encouragement, something that would give people a reason to smile,” Warren said.

The Hope Garden started on Easter Sunday and began with sidewalk chalk.

“The sidewalk chalk has been great,” Warren said. “We’ve had several people stop and draw pictures, write messages.”

There are also signs that people can write on with markers and place in the ground. People are welcome to use the supplies on hand, or bring their own.

“If folks are walking by they can draw a picture or write something,” Warren said. “All the stuff is right there for them to be able to do that.”

The Hope Garden is one part of the church’s outreach efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, which include making sure community members have access to groceries and spiritual counseling.

“As a Christian Church, we want to meet people where they are, but we also find hope in Christ,” Warren said. “We certainly don’t want to be pushy or anything like that, but what we find in times of real need, the veneer of ‘everything is fine’ gets pulled back and people have more spiritual needs, more questions about Christ.”

To that end, the church has launched a webpage — www.fccw.net/hope — where people can submit prayer requests and other needs that they have as the pandemic continues.

“The need for counseling or just someone to talk to is way higher than it was before. The reality is that not only is there the danger of COVID-19 … but with all the lockdowns, there is also higher alcoholism, there’s higher suicide attempts, there’s higher depression and challenge with emotional needs,” Warren said. “Lots of people are struggling with not just the lack of seeing people, but it’s the whole disruption of your schedule, your regular routine or rhythm of life and what you’re used to. When that’s disrupted that tends to bring out more of these types of challenges.”

The church has plans to keep the Hope Garden going through the pandemic, even as stay-at-home orders begin to lift.

“During the time of transition it’s still troubling to folks so having the Hope Garden is another way of encouraging our neighbors,” Warren said.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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