Creating a garden of spiritual growth

sophia spring

A meditation garden designed and built with involvement from the Sophia’s Spring Uniting Church community will be the centrepiece of a spirituality hub in the inner-Melbourne environment park CERES.

Sophia’s Spring is an ecofeminist Christian community which grew out of Fitzroy Uniting Church.

The congregation has been meeting for Sunday services at the CERES sustainability park and urban farm Learning Centre since 2010.

The meditation garden will be built around the Learning Centre of the park, which sits on the banks of the Merri Creek in East Brunswick.

The Learning Centre is also home to the Buddhist Melbourne Zen Group and Melbourne Insight Meditation.

CERES has worked closely with all three groups over the past two years in consultation and planning of the garden, with the groups also contributing financially to the project.

Sophia’s Spring will help construct the garden and create prayers and meditations to mark the development stages.

The first stage of work involves removing the fire circle which has been on the site since the 1970s.

On 21 July, members of Sophia’s Spring, Melbourne Zen group and Insight Meditation joined with CERES staff and visitors to begin removing the circle.

Sophia’s Spring long-term supply minister Rev Jan Sebastian co-led a ritual acknowledging the significance of the site and of the new garden.

Corporate volunteers will join regular users of the Learning Centre in a series of working bees to build the garden.

The garden’s volunteer designer Min Manifold said it will “act as a gateway to a meditative experience” offering “larger open spaces and smaller private areas for both education activities and private reflection”.

“Through designs that are sensory, symbolic, mythic, liminal and journey based, the spiritual garden brings the visitor closer to the inner world,” Ms Manifold said.

“Our ability to attend, with care, to the inner world has a direct relationship to our ability to care for the outer world.”

The meditation garden is a key part of CERES’ vision to “create a life affirming culture” and “powerful place for inner-transformation” at the park.

For Sophia’s Spring, the meditation garden is the latest in a number of collaborations which  explore biblical and theological thinking and justice theology.

In March this year – and again in June at CERES’ annual winter solstice event – Sophia’s Spring partnered with the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, CERES and Friends of the Earth to present Deep Ecology rituals.

Workshop convenor and Sophia’s Spring member Jan Garood said these rituals draw on the pioneering work of spiritual and environmental thinkers Joanna Macy and Molly Brown. They begin with a grounding meditation that focuses on breath.

“Then, drama and story-telling allow people to share their experiences of connectedness to the natural world,
she said.

“By feeling in touch with the Earth again, people find courage and clarity to resist the mindless consumerism of the growth economy and live a healing life.”

Also in March, Ms Sebastian led the Sophia’s Spring community and participants in an Elm Dance, a practice which aims to build connection with the Earth.

“Around the planet, as people gather to work together for the healing of the world, this simple, beautiful practice is spreading,” said Ms Sebastian.

“To acknowledge their commitment to justice for the Earth and all living beings, they join hands in a circle dance.”

Ms Sebastian is a long-term supply minister to Sophia’s Spring in the capacity of Intentional Creative Mobile ministry with Kay Quisenberry.

Sophia’s Spring is currently seeking a minister or ministry coordinator to continue the adventure of being a church in an environment park.

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