Hedge of hope
Having our doors closed has forced us to think outwards, writes Rashell Beya, minister of Broadway Baptist Church in Derby - and here's how we made a feature of a hedge we once wanted to cut down
As part of the major building project at Broadway Baptist Church in 2012-14, we really wanted to bring down the hedge that bordered our land. It wasn’t high but it felt like a barrier and despite the size of our building it was easy to walk by and not really notice the church. However, we were told it was protected and there was nothing we could do.
During lockdown when people couldn’t go far, suddenly we had visitors as families enjoyed using the carpark for skate and cycling practice, and occasionally people would enjoy the sun seated on the grass. Conversations started.
Christmas: another lockdown. A group got together with an idea: rather than the hedge being a blockage, let’s make it a feature and so the ‘hedge of hope’ was born and nativity scene made of enormous lengths of chicken wire were shaped by individuals and families. At night it was lit up.
We wondered how it would go down. Word soon spread and families and friends would come out to look at the hedge and have their photo taken with the figures, while cars slowed down to look. On Christmas Eve we piped carols from underneath the hedge to add to the festive nature and were able to chat at a distance. There were many comments of appreciation of the joy it brought people on this particular Christmas.
So what next?
We planned for Valentine’s Day: ‘All you need is love’ to go with an enormous heart with messages from the local primary school of what love meant to them and a banner ‘Surprised by love’. An opportunity to tie a ribbon in the hedge to remember someone special. What did love mean for them?
It then morphed into a practical demonstration of love with a telling of the story of the Good Samaritan. Again people were talking about it and stopping us in the street to talk about it.
‘Such Love’ was our Easter theme, making use of an artistic piece of wrought iron that a member had made about 20 years ago and is on the wall inside the church. Jesus carried his cross on the hedge until Easter Sunday when a retelling of the Easter Story was again on the hedge. Again there have been many comments of how much people have enjoyed seeing the hedge displays, having the opportunity to participate in small acts of reflection and asking what next.
For now, the hedge is having a break, but it has helped the church up to see the potential of all our space not just what happens inside. Inspired by the Bible Society’s Psalm 23 Garden, a group is working on making the front garden a welcome community space for rest and reflection. A couple of strategically placed benches quite near the boundary are making it an attractive stop for a socially distanced chat, and green-fingered neighbours are enjoying making suggestions and offering plants as people are also preparing pebble prayer stations.
It is a small thing that we have done at one level, but by having our doors closed it has forced us to think outwards. We are in a residential area, opposite a retirement village, and have a number of people walking past, especially with dogs to the large parks at either end of Broadway. We have made more impact by a light-hearted presence than when we are busy with activities inside.
We have also demonstrated ourselves to be a caring, connected, creative group of people who are interested in others in practical ways too: being a drop off point for the foodbank food, recycling drop off for baby pouches and part of the city’s community support network for neighbours.
In all these ways we are making connections with our community as we pray how to develop them so that God’s Kingdom may come and blossom in this part of Derby.
The Revd Rashell Beya is minister of Broadway Baptist Church, Derby