The Falls Church Episcopal, How Does Your Garden Grow?

The Falls Church Episcopal, How Does Your Garden Grow?

Friends of Episcopal Relief & Development – March 2014

Bok choy is not the only thing to grow in the fertile soil of The Falls Church Episcopal in Falls Church, VA.  It seems that people are also part of the harvest in this revitalized fellowship.

The congregation has seen tremendous growth since moving back into its buildings after a lengthy lawsuit over ownership, from an average Sunday attendance of ninety to now almost two hundred people. While there are many factors that contributed to this growth, one area that has become particularly vibrant is the youth and children’s ministry.

In August, Nina Bacas, Director of Children’s, Youth and Family Ministries, decided to incorporate Abundant Life Garden Project® resources into the Sunday School curriculum.  The classes, broken into five groups, ranging in age from three years old to sixth graders and up, began working through Abundant Life Garden Project® lessons.  Additionally, they planted a garden on the church grounds and each week a different class was responsible for the care and maintenance of the garden. 

The lessons each week made the connection to the garden very clear.  As students were learning about agricultural practices around the world and how tiny seeds­–like the mustard seed in Jesus’ parable–grow into something good and wholesome, they were using their hands to cultivate soil, to deliver clean water to the earth and to harvest the bounty that came from their own hands.  Each Abundant Life Garden Project® module teaches about the work of Episcopal Relief & Development, while allowing for tangible connection to the Episcopal faith and practical connection to the earth.

One particular vegetable that grew in abundance in The Falls Church garden was bok choy, a type of Chinese cabbage.  So plentiful was the yield of this vegetable that part of the harvest was given to the food pantry of the Lazarus Ministry, a self-help ministry of The Falls Church.  This ministry, run by lay people, is open each Thursday morning.  People can come and select fresh fruits and vegetables, canned goods, dairy products, and personal care items from the pantry, as well as use computers to help them search online for employment opportunities.

Additionally, a portion of the harvest was given to the Shelter House, an organization that helps formerly homeless women and children transition into homes.  Three of these families live in proximity to the church and received fresh produce from the children’s garden.  Preparations are now being made to plant the spring garden, building off the lessons and the excellent work of the autumn.

“I love it when different ministries come together – a blossoming children’s and youth group, using our historic grounds creatively, and serving the poor,” says Rev. John Ohmer, Rector of The Falls Church. “Just like those vegetables grow naturally out of good soil, good works come from good hearts rooted in the Holy Spirit.”

The youth of The Falls Church have also been working to make a global impact while strengthening relationships within their own community.  Last November, the youth were planning a fundraiser to underwrite costs for a winter snow-tubing trip.  During the preparations of this fundraising effort, Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines.  The youth immediately steered the focus of their fundraising to support Episcopal Relief & Development’s partnership with the Episcopal Church in the Philippines by selling handmade crosses between worship services.

“It’s powerful for our young people to be helping our brothers and sisters in need that live across the street, as well as those that live across the world,” says Nina Bacas. “Thanks to Episcopal Relief & Development, we are equipped with tools to do both in a manner that is effective, creative and spiritually formative.”

The Vietnamese Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops that meet at The Falls Church also wanted to be a part of the outreach to the Episcopal Church in the Philippines.  Altogether, The Falls Church youth and the scout troops raised $2,170.00 for Typhoon Haiyan relief.  Apart from this amazing accomplishment on behalf of people on the other side of the world, this has lead to an increased interaction between the church and the scout troops.  One of the scouts, working on his Eagle Scout project, is in the process of revamping a Sunday School room to be a Godly Play resource room. 

From the work of the young, great seeds have been sown in The Falls Church, and tremendous possibilities are already coming to fruition.  Episcopal Relief & Development is proud of the friendship and support of The Falls Church and the many wonderful things to come from the country’s newest, oldest Episcopal community.

Episcopal Relief & Development’s Power of Partnerships and Friends of Episcopal Relief & Development web features appear on a rotating monthly basis.  To learn more about the organization’s work worldwide, visit

Garden    Bok Choy    Kids