Garden Church: Initial key insights & analysis from survey materials.

  1. The Garden Church is in its earliest stages locally, but has been in a careful, detailed “cultivation” stage for at least a year.  A great deal of thought, vision, research, strategy, prayer and implementation has gone into its creation.
  2. It has terrific widespread (non-local) support (including financially) with its board, through social media, networking, and through word of mouth. 
  3. Thus far all of those involved have some personal connection with Anna (friends or relatives), the Swedenborgian denomination, Wayfarer’s Chapel  in LA where she preaches once a month, and the seminary community. 
  4. The small local worshipping group is on the cusp of emerging into a visible church and community garden, as it moves into “phase 2”—having its own plot of land and a visible identity in downtown San Pedro.  Detailed groundwork and negotiation has gone into this next phase, and all indications are that it will bear beautiful fruit (both literally and metaphorically).
  5. Anna is a gifted, charismatic leader and visionary who also can plan and organize effectively (qualities not often found together!)  She is also disciplined and has strong, healthy boundaries.  But even with a strong supportive network and solid volunteers, it’s lonely and scary to be the “founder” and sole paid leader creating a whole new kind of way to be a church.
  6. The partnership with Green Girl farms for the gardening piece of the community seems to be a key, essential, vital collaboration.  Green Girl Farms provides gardening expertise, resources and support.
  7. The concept of a church focused on the environment, gardening and a food ministry, working together, worshipped informally, and sharing a meal together, has strong appeal to the “spiritual but not religious” types so common among the populace today.  These folks also stated that they are drawn to Anna’s passion and charisma.  They also are interested in practices that are engaged in the world, that feel authentic and that are not so focused on closed systems of doctrine, creed and belief.  They want to work out their own beliefs in the context of caring community.
  8. Planting a non-traditional church in a new community, even for a gifted, skilled and well-prepared leader is not for the faint of heart!  One must be adventurous, creative, confident, adaptable, and hard working, and feel absolutely called to it!
  9. Anna has done extensive and strategic networking in order to connect to the knowledge, resources and energy that will be essential to the realization of the vision.  In addition to denominational, seminary and financial networking, she is in conversation with Nadia Bolz-Webber, Doug Pagitt and Sara Miles – all who have expertise and success with emerging ministries.
  10. If this is a historical period of significant cultural or spiritual change, this period of change and uncertainty will require that we experiment boldly while simultaneously engaging in deliberate and focused efforts of discernment.  That process is unfolding right here – this effort to experiment and then discern is what we are doing here.  This process needs to be supported financially.  Anna has gotten funds from regular members and attenders, from folks pledging from afar, from a couple of large “angel investors” and from some crowd funding efforts.  How can seminaries support this important research, this experimentation and discernment?