An oft-quoted line from a poem, "One is nearer God's heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth," is a sentiment shared by many who have discovered the peace and joy of coaxing bountiful produce from the soil.
Another Lenoir City church is reaching out to help families who do not have gardening space or experience getting homegrown goodness from the soil.
Trinity United Methodist Church has established Trinity Community Garden Association to provide a community garden plot for members and neighbors. Using existing green space, the garden will help provide local, low cost food for the community and opportunities for positive connections with people in the neighborhood.
TCGA membership is free and open to Trinity members, friends and neighbors.
Kris Allen, a Trinity member, said planning for the community garden started in February.
"I've gardened all my life with my parents and grandparents and always enjoyed it," Allen said. "We had this wonderful green space and explored possibilities for using it for a long time. We hope that anyone who would like to garden will pick up an application. There is a spot to check if they are novice gardeners and want help.
"We started with four test plots to see if there was any interest and there is," Allen said. "Even our Trinity youth and children have adopted a spot and they're really excited."
Families or individuals who wish to join must complete an application and be accepted by TCGA coordinators. Upon approval, a TCGA member will sign a written contract agreeing to the association guidelines and rules. Church members may join and be assigned a garden plot, sponsor a garden plot or make donations to support the project.
One garden plot consists of a raised bed, 4 feet by 8 feet, constructed from lumber. Church members will be asked to donate surplus seeds, plants and tools to keep costs at a minimum.
"This year we undertook to study some of the needs of our church and community," the Rev. Kim Isley, pastor, said. "The Call to Action Team discovered that one of the most pressing and increasing needs in our area is the need for affordable food sources."
Isley said church members thought there might be those who could benefit from healthy produce and learning how to grow it. Also, the project would put the talents of some church members to use.
"We already support Good Samaritan through in-kind donations, money and volunteer helpers, and through the LCUB Neighborade Program," Isley said. "We know that there are folks who live in places that make opening a can the best option for them. However, some could benefit with learning to grow healthy foods."
In addition to growing food, the association will have a "garden share" day every week during the growing season. Members who have home gardens will bring surplus produce to share with others. There is no charge to those receiving the produce, but those who are able are encouraged to make donations to support the ministry.
The initial trial plots were prepared for use June 16 by Trinity members. Plots will need to be planted soon as the year is well into the growing season.
Allen said it is not too late to plant tomatoes and green beans. "And there's always fall gardening," she said.
Trinity is located at 300 Second Ave. West in Lenoir City. Garden plots may be seen there and applications obtained for participation.
"Everything tastes better if you grow it yourself," Allen said. "I enjoy gardening because it is soothing and relaxing. And if you plant a seed and watch it grow, you see the miracle of life."
First Presbyterian Church on Martel Road has been offering free garden plots for four years to anyone who wants to grow foods. The project there offers free plots and water.
Twelve plots are planted now and a few more are available for planting.
"The gardens are looking really good this year," Connie Umbach, wife of pastor Ed Umbach, said.
Central United Methodist Church started a community garden several years ago as well.