Middletown church makes big change with 40-by-40-foot garden

MIDDLETOWN — First Christian Church, looking for a possible road map to guide its future plans, met two years ago with Hope Partnership for Missional Transformation, a faith-based consulting firm in Indianapolis.

“We wanted to know if we were heading in the direction we wished to go,” said Dave Lombard, a church member. “It was time to take a harder look at all that.”

The consultants accessed the demographics of the aging congregation, the activities the church offered and its physical assets, the building, parking lot and acreage. After several meetings, the group offered church leaders three options: Stay the course, make “modest” changes or make a “bold decision.”

Church members held weekly meetings and voted for the third option.

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That seed has grown into a 40-by-40 “Feed My Sheep Ministries” garden planted behind the church on Rosedale Road. Led by Lombard and fellow church member Larry Steele, the garden has produced more than 1,000 pounds of produce that has been given to area families.

Most of the produce has been donated to the Middletown Area Salvation Army that distributes it through its food pantry. Nazarene Church in Monroe also receives some of the produce.

Steele called providing fresh produce to area families “a warming experience. Reaching out and serving others is one of the commissions we are given. Work with and serve other people.”

“Extremely gratifying,” Lombard said. “This shows we’re moving in the right direction."

Pastor Connor Thompson, in his first year at the church, said the garden is an example of a change in philosophy.

“Just showing up on Sunday mornings is not the purpose of the church,” he said. “Getting our hands dirty is a wonderful change.”

Before planting the garden, church leaders met with organizers of the Hamilton Urban Gardens to get some “helpful ideas,” Steele said.

A waterline from the church to the garden was installed by Blashock Plumbing and a chain linked fence was built by Simpson Fence to keep deer from eating the vegetables. The seed was purchased by an anonymous donor and the rest of the project was underwritten by church members.

They planted corn, green beans and acorn squash, which, to their surprise, spread 30 feet throughout the garden.

“The first year has been a learning experience,” said Lombard, who, along with Steele tends to the garden three days a week.

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