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Agency, church plan joint events that focus on gardening initiative

NIAGARA FALLS – As part of their joint Gardens of Compassion project, Community Missions of Niagara Frontier and St. James United Methodist Church will present special community events on Wednesday, Aug. 24 and Aug. 31. All three events will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. at St. James, 4661 Porter Road, Niagara Falls, and they are free and open to the public.

“We really want our gardening initiative to be one that gives back to as many people in the community as possible,” said Rev. Mark Breese, Community Missions’ agency minister and director of ministry and community partnerships. “These events do that by bringing education, creating conversation and allowing people to just have some fun together as a community.”

Ken Parker will present “Food is Our Medicine” on Wednesday, exploring food, farming, indigenous plants, health, and the idea of caring for creation from a Native American perspective. Parker is native plant consultant and project director of the Haundenosaunee Community Food is our Medicine Project for the Seneca Nation of Indians.

On Aug. 24, there will be a concert featuring local musicians in the Wing and a Prayer band. Led by Kevin and Lynne Jacob, the group has performed at local churches and community events throughout the area for the past 21 years. It presents a mix of original music along with old gospel, rock and folk standards. The band also includes Rick Strusienski and Gordy Goodearl.

The Aug. 31 presentation – “Is Christianity Good News for the Environment?” – will be given by Rev. Daven Oskvig, senior pastor at Kenmore United Methodist Church and adjunct professor in Canisius College’s Department of Religious Studies. Oskvig’s presentation looks at society’s increasing concern for the environment and how the many faith traditions provide a moral compass for life and living yet often fail to respond to the responsibility to care for creation.

The presentations on Wednesday and Aug. 31 will take place in the church sanctuary. The Aug. 24 outdoor concert is planned for an area adjacent to the gardens. In case of inclement weather, it will move into the church.

The Gardens of Compassion initiative is a community garden with three basic goals: producing food for those in need; addressing the stigma associated with mental illness; and learning about our responsibility to care for the environment.

“In many ways, the Gardens of Compassion is all about creating community by holding up the simple fact that we are all one human family who all inhabit our beautiful and amazing planet together,” Breese said. “That sounds very grand, but it actually gets down to very basic stuff. Being part of one family means that we have a responsibility to care for each other in times of need, and that we all have a responsibility to care for our one home, the Earth. Even though both responsibilities are large, if all of us make an effort even in small ways, like at a sustainable community garden, it adds up to make a difference.”

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