Tuesday, July 21, 2009

garden in the morning

First Unitarian Church Garden Celebration from Ricky Hoyt on Vimeo.

Saturday Peleg and I spent the morning at a little street fair on Francis Avenue, the street behind First Church, LA. The occasion was to celebrate a neighborhood garden that the church had helped start 13 years ago. One year ago the City of Los Angeles used money from a proposition approved by voters to create pocket parks in the city, to purchase the land that the church had been renting from the owners for $1 a year. The city then turned management of the garden over to an organization called the Neighborhood Land Trust. Saturday's street fair was a celebration of the first anniversary of the new arrangement.

The garden is a gem. Although the whole program was in place long before I arrived as the minister I'm really proud to have our church involved. It's exactly the kind of church and neighborhood partnership that I'm hoping we will have more of.

Here is the text of the speech I gave as an invocation at the street fair.

Francis Avenue Garden Speech
July 19, 2009

Good morning. My name is Ricky Hoyt. I am the minister of the big church around the corner on 8th Street, the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles. I am proud that it was members of my church, working with this community, who were able to get this garden started several years ago. And I am very pleased to see that the garden has lasted all these years, and the garden has thrived, and today the garden looks better than it ever has with the generosity of the City of Los Angeles, and the management of the Neighborhood Land Trust, and the partnership of all of you who come to the garden, and work for the garden and love the garden.

I am proud to know that my church has been a partner with this neighborhood in making this garden happen. I am proud to know that my church continues to be involved in this garden as a partner with all of you. I want you to know that my church wants to continue to be a partner with you in other ways as well. We will look for other projects that we can do together. And I want you to think of the First Unitarian Church on eighth street as a place that belongs to you, where you can come for your events, where you can come to find tutoring for your children, where you can come just to rest and to pray. I hope that you will visit us soon.

I’m proud that our church could help get this garden started because my faith tells me that in the midst of our lives we need places like this. In the midst of our city we need places like this. In the midst of a crowded neighborhood where there are so many people but it’s so hard to know our neighbors, we need places like this.

We need places where we can come together with our neighbors. We need places where we can sit in the cool of the evening. Where we can enjoy the sounds of children playing in safety. Where we can smell the earth and growing things. Where we can listen to the soft conversation of our friends.

We need places that are open to the sun and the sky and the rain. We need places that remind ourselves that our food doesn’t come from the store but it comes from the earth. We need places that remind us that there is dirt under our feet, not just concrete. We need places that remind us that we share the earth with other animals, like the chickens who enjoy our garden as much as we do. We need public places where we meet people who aren’t like ourselves: people from different cultures; people who were born in different countries; people who speak different languages; and where we learn more about what it really means to be human in all that ways that people live.

It is from places like this that a true neighborhood is born: a neighborhood where we can work together to achieve big goals; a neighborhood where we can know each other and surround ourselves with friends instead of strangers; a neighborhood where we help each other, giving what we have, and receiving what we need. It is from places like this that we go on together to create more beauty and more joy and more health.

With one place like this we then begin to look around us and see more opportunities to create another gathering place, and another; to plant a tree, or a whole street of trees; to clear space along the street to plant flowers or to set up a bench; to re-paint a building; and fix the broken windows; to pick up the trash when it accumulates; to paint a mural.
Inspired by the joy we feel in this one place that good feeling then starts to spread to other parts of our lives. We are happier in our homes. We are happier in our jobs. We do better in school. We smile at the strangers that we pass on the sidewalk. We find it easier to hold out our hands to help a friend in need.

Today we should be proud both of what we have already accomplished with this garden, and also eager to let this garden be only the beginning of a movement that will eventually transform this whole neighborhood into a kind of garden: neighborhood garden where instead of growing tomatoes we grow friendships; a neighborhood garden when instead of growing beautiful flowers we grow beautiful people; a neighborhood garden where today we have planted the seeds here in this one place, and years from now, when the seeds have grown into full maturity, we will have the rich harvest of joyful lives.

Thank you all, for being here today. Have a wonderful morning. Make a new friend today. And God bless.

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