THE CROSS OF ST PIRAN AWARDED TO JULIE MUNRO AND SIAN GASTON
Julie Munro and Sian Gaston are being awarded the Cross of St Piran for growing their idea of a community garden into an innovative missional space in Mylor Bridge.
The Garden, as the project is now known, began life as a mossy patch next to the church. Today, it could be described as a burgeoning haven of horticultural delight that became a lifeline for many, especially during lockdown. But it’s so much more.
A BEAUTIFUL GARDEN GROWN ON A BEDROCK OF PRAYER
“It’s become a safe place. A beautiful garden grown on a bedrock of prayer that somehow holds the space between sacred and secular,” says Sian. “It reflects Cornish and Celtic spirituality, so much so that it feels porous. You can feel the presence of God there through creation.”
“It reflects Cornish and Celtic spirituality, so much so that it feels porous. You can feel the presence of God there through creation.”
“It completely fulfils the original vision for the garden,” says Julie. “Many older residents liked the idea of a community garden but were put off when they knew it would be in St Mylor Church grounds. But as the garden has flourished, so has the community and people come here now who would never ordinarily come anywhere near a church.”
BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS
The garden has broken down barriers as people come to volunteer, sharing their stories alongside each other. It’s become a hopeful destination that people want to share in, for the garden but also the craft club and community café that have developed alongside it.
“God keeps providing,” says Julie. “He’s brought together the people to run the café and manage the craft club, and it just works. Even before the pandemic, so many people felt isolated. In the winter months, people come along with their crafts, or join in with the crafts we have available. And as the days get longer, they come to help or enjoy the garden.”
HOW GOD USED BERTIE, JULIE’S DOG TO RECONNECT HER TO HER FAITH
Julie has a very practical faith. Worshipping isn’t confined to singing in church, it’s something she does with everything she has been given. Like her gift for bringing The Garden to life, and her dog, Bertie. “A friend sent me a card. It depicted a blue car surrounded by sheep, with one on the roof, a dog in the back and a man driving. That’s me! I was the lost sheep and God used Bertie to bring me home.” It was because of Bertie that Julie came to church and discovered a deeper relationship with God. “When Bertie was a puppy, the vicar’s wife at the time fell in love with him and invited us both to tea, and then to church. I was a bit taken aback but thought, why not? Bertie went with me, and we’ve made it our home ever since.”
AND FOR SIAN, GOD USED THE GIDEONS
For Sian, it was reading the tiny Bible the Gideons gave her while at school that ignited her faith. Although she’d been brought up in a Christian family, it was reading the Gospel for herself for the very first time, just because she wanted to, that made the difference. “I became aware of an incredible sense of peace and being loved. I was only twelve and couldn’t name it or rationalise it. But I knew that somehow this was the love of God.”
THE GARDEN IS WHERE JESUS WOULD BE
This sense that God is real permeates The Garden. “Being a part of creation in the garden is so meaningful,” says Julie. “Seeing things grow. Engaging with the people who bring it to life and seeing how therapeutic that space is for so many is so powerful. It’s where Jesus would be. Not bound in by church walls, but where people are. Kneeling down with us while we weed and tend, encouraging us all to share our stories.”
“It’s where Jesus would be. Not bound in by church walls, but where people are. Kneeling down with us while we weed and tend, encouraging us all to share our stories.”
FROM SMALL SEEDS AND A LEAFLET FROM THE DIOCESE ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE…
For Sian, the impetus for the garden came from responding to an environmental leaflet from the diocese. “We wanted to do something to help combat climate change, thinking the very least we would achieve would be an allotment for the church! But then we dared to think broader. Our plans never quite panned out in the way we were expecting, thanks to the pandemic and re-roofing the church, but God was in it. We hoped but could never have imagined just how successful it has been. And how the village has taken it to their heart.”
It’s extraordinary what Julie Munro and Sian Gaston have achieved. The Garden has brought a village together, broken through church walls and grown hope from a scrubby piece of discarded church land.
To read more about The Garden and just how much it has benefitted the local community, read Grow it Forward.