[Holy Trinity Church, Inwood] Members of the Holy Trinity community gathered last week in the parish garden with a singular focus: to listen to the land.
“It occurred to me while I was out on a run,” said the Rev. Jake Dell, Interim Vicar, “that in the process of listening to all the voices in our community concerning what they appreciate about the parish and what they wish for its future, we had left out some important voices: the trees, the flowers, the very land on which our sanctuary sits. I asked myself, have we listened to what the land wants?”
Dell organized two informal opportunities for parishioners to gather in the garden in quiet reflection and contemplation.
He introduced the groups at each session to the custom of Rogation Days, an ancient Christian rite dating back to the 5th century.
On Rogation Days, members of a parish would perform a ceremony known as the “Beating of the Bounds,” in which a procession of parishioners would walk the boundaries of their parish and pray for its protection in the coming year. The practice is still prevalent in some Anglican parishes in England.
Dell organized one session after worship on Sunday, May 8 and again in the early evening of Tuesday, May 10.
After a brief Rogation blessing from the Book of Occasional Services led by Dell, participants spent 15 to 20 minutes meditatively walking the property. The group then gathered in a circle and recited the Lord’s Prayer before sharing their observations with one another.
Vestry member Leslee Warren said, “It’s amazing to see how much things have grown over the years. I have been coming here over 18 years and I can remember when the pine tree was small enough that I could look over it. Now it’s taller than all of us!”
Others voiced concern for preservation and sustainability. “If developing our land means that we end up needing to remove any trees I would really like to find a way to relocate them, perhaps to the park or another church,” said Maitri Butcher. Other parishioners gathered agreed that moving, rather than destroying the trees, if possible, would be important.
Others commented on the large diversity of flowers in the garden, including lilacs, lilies, and roses, and were surprised to learn that there is a culinary herb garden on the grounds that includes wild oregano and chives.
Raised planter beds in the northwest corner of the garden once held edible plants including lettuce and tomatoes. “We grew food that was shared by our community,” said Jeanne Ruskin. “It would be great if we could do that again.”
“Beating the Bounds” gave members of the Holy Trinity community a new perspective on its property – as a sanctuary, as a source of inspiration and of spiritual and bodily nourishment, as a resource to be respected, and as an important part of the parish’s history.