God has a thing for gardens. I can’t say what God planted in Eden—probably not exactly the same species native to west Tennessee. But if you believe (as I do) that the Garden of Eden is not limited to a particular geography, then you won’t have trouble imagining a little piece of paradise right in our own backyard.
Picture a small clearing in a woods thick with persimmon, elm, black cherry and pine. Several great oaks—well over two hundred years old—keep watch, and if you go far enough you will find a little stream that murmurs and coos. Tangles of wild blackberries bank the sunny open spaces and the sweet scent of honeysuckle hangs in the air.
By this time you are bound to have stumbled upon a narrow path leading to an unexpected clearing—home to two beehives. The hives don’t look like much, frankly, but they contain a world unto themselves. Beehives are a veritable picture of life pouring itself out: the queen will lay about 2,000 eggs per day. The workers will be so intent on their projects that they will hardly notice you (unless you aggravate them!). They will produce wax and honey and pollinate an array of flowers, herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Honeybees are so important, in fact, that without them the food supply of the planet would be seriously compromised. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that these hard-working, community-loving, queen-protecting, fancy-dancing, and utterly enchanting creatures keep the world spinning.
So how do you bless a bee?
First, you follow the Holy Spirit’s nudging to keep bees in the first place.
Second, seeking the advice of knowledgeable people, you find a friendly spot for one or more beehives.
Third, you locate a source, and in the case of these particular hives, you drive to Cookeville, Tennessee, to pick them up.
Then, for the blessing, you will need:
People. Young ones and old ones. Experts and novices. Members of Calvary and members of Annunciation.
A simple liturgy.
On the afternoon of Sunday, May 4, about 40 people gathered in the beautiful clearing in the woods on the campus of Church of the Annunciation in Cordova. The Rev. John Burruss, Vicar of Annunciation, and I led prayers for the bees that had arrived the day before. The liturgy ended with Emily Dickinson’s trinitarian blessing, “In the name of the bee and the butterfly, and of the breeze.”
As Betty Jo Dulaney and Terri Purvis, along with several Annunciation folk, donned bee suits and began the process of transferring the travel-weary bees to their new home, other volunteers moved to prepared herb beds in a sunny field and proceeded to plant a variety of herbs which will eventually be donated to Thistle Farms in Nashville. The day was hot and the work was physical. But the mood was joyful as the disparate group modeled bee behavior: industrious, cooperative, helpful, community-building.
Calvary and Annunciation have partnered to become The Friends of Thistle Farms, a pilot project to explore how people of faith in Memphis can become part of a nation-wide movement committed to the healing of survivors of prostitution and trafficking. Thistle Farms was founded in Nashville, Tennessee, by the Rev. Becca Stevens to support the Magdalene Community. Learn more at www.thistlefarms.org.