In the spring of 2014 two Episcopal churches in the Diocese of West Tennessee formed an unusual partnership. The Associate Rector of Calvary (yours truly) and John Burruss, Vicar of Church of the Annunciation (now working for the diocese as Canon for Sustainable Ministries), began a casual conversation over coffee about their respective dreams for ministry. For me, it was a conviction that Nashville's Magdalene/Thistle Farms* program needed to take root in Memphis. John's dream was to see Annunciation's 10-acre campus in Cordova--largely unused--become the thriving garden spot it could be, an example of what loving care for God's creation could actually do.
Other people got interested in joining the conversation, and we began to wonder if we could plant the seed of our idea: could a garden become the cornerstone of a ministry to support survivors of trafficking and abuse? A handful of passionate, committed people said "Yes!" So we ordered two beehives, staked out a dozen raised beds in a cruciform design, and went to work.
It was not a fully developed plan by any stretch! Nevertheless by May volunteers had installed a two-hive apiary and planted an herb garden. By September, we had our first honey harvest--a whopping 33 half-pint jars of pure golden deliciousness!
On a gorgeous October afternoon, the first annual Scarborough Fair was held to celebrate the joy of watching our dreams take shape and to tell a story of God's work among us. Prizes were awarded to winners of the "brew off," (described by Burruss as a "tea party and chili cook-off mashup"). All the honey was sold and the proceeds given to a community of courageous women healing from the trauma of their lives on the street.
Now, nearly a year later, it is clear that the work has just begun! Can a garden and a few beehives really make a difference? We still believe it can. As the Friends of Thistle Farm team wrestles with the challenges of building a viable social enterprise out of these modest beginnings, we will again pause to take joy in our progress and tell our story to anyone willing to listen. We hope to raise a little money while we're at it!
The second annual Scarborough Fair will be held on Sunday, October 4, from 4:00-6:00 p.m., on the beautiful grounds of Shady Grove Presbyterian Church at the corner of Yates and Shady Grove. Parking is easy, and the event is free. (Although we hope you will make a modest donation.) Bring the kids for a Teddy Bear Tea under the trees, and consider entering the "brew-off" featuring creations made with herb and/or honey. Enter now!
In addition to tasting the delicious treats created by the brew-off contestants, honey from our very own apiary and honey creations made by the children of St. George's Independent School will be for sale.
*Magdalene House, founded by the Rev. Becca Stevens, is a two-year residential program designed for survivors of prostitution, trafficking, and life on the street. Thistle Farms is the social enterprise run by residents and graduates of the program. Learn more at www.thistlefarms.org.