Community Missions of Niagara Frontier Inc. and St. James United Methodist Church in Niagara Falls are presenting the final two special community events at the Gardens of Compassion, on Wednesdays, Aug. 24 and 31.
The first event is an outdoor "Concert By the Gardens" featuring the local band Wing and a Prayer. The second event is a presentation titled "Is Christianity Good News for the Environment?".
Both events will be held at St. James United Methodist Church, 4661 Porter Road, Niagara Falls. They run from 7-8 p.m., and are free and open to the public.
Wing and a Prayer is led by Kevin and Lynne Jacob. The group has performed at local churches and community events in Western New York for the past 21 years. Members present a mix of original music along with old gospel, rock and folk standards. Band members also include Rick Strusienski and Gordy Goodearl.
"We are looking forward to the concert," Kevin Jacob said. "Community Missions has been helping those in need for a long time, and we are pleased to contribute to the Gardens of Compassion initiative the mission is doing with St. James."
The concert will be held outdoors at St. James UMC, right next to the gardens.
"The gardens have been doing really well in spite of the lack of rain this summer," said the Rev. Matthew Kofhal, pastor of St. James UMC. "People will get a chance to see and learn more about the initiative - and maybe that experience, along with the music, will inspire some to get involved or maybe start their own community garden?"
In the event of inclement weather, the concert will be moved indoors to the church's sanctuary.
The following Wednesday, the Rev. Daven Oskvig, senior pastor at Kenmore United Methodist Church, an adjunct professor in Canisius College's department of religious studies, will give a presentation titled "Is Christianity Good News for the Environment?". The presentation looks at society's increasing concern for the environment and how many faith traditions provide a moral compass for life and living, yet often fail to respond to the responsibility to care for creation.
"The questions we need to ask are, what does the Christian tradition have to say on environmental matters?" Oskvig said. "And if it does have something to say about caring for the environment, are we listening and applying what the tradition does say?"
The Gardens of Compassion initiative is a unique community garden created in partnership between Community Missions and St. James. It has three basic goals of producing food for those in need, addressing the stigma associated with mental illness, and learning about one's responsibility to care for creation.
The volunteer base for the gardens is individuals who participate in Community Missions programs for adults with mental illness, parishioners at St. James UMC, Hope UMC of Niagara County, and members from the general community.
The food grown at the gardens is used in the missions' community soup kitchen and Niagara Visions PROS, one of CMI's mental health recovery programs. Volunteer gardeners also share in the fruits of their labor at the gardens.
Many partners have come together with Community Missions and St. James to help to get the initiative started or to sustain it over the past four years, including: Cornell Cooperative Extension, Goodman's Farmer's Market, United Methodist Women and Brighton Community Church.
For the past two years, funding from a One Great Hour of Sharing Development Grant from the American Baptist Home Mission Society has supported the initiative. In 2016, Greenprint Niagara WNY also became a partner, supplying many seedlings and other support. The Service Collaborative of WNY provided funding for materials that helped expand the gardens with four new raised beds (for a total of 16 beds), and also helped recruit volunteers through its VolunterWNY.org online platform.
For more information about the Gardens of Compassion initiative and the special events this summer, individuals can visit the Community Missions website at www.CommunityMissions.org/gardens, or contact the Rev. Mark Breese at 716-258-3403, ext. 2259.
Since its founding in 1925, Community Missions has provided a unique blend of referral, crisis, community support and residential services for youth and adults. In 2015, CMI provided over 86,000 meals and 10,000 nights of care to neglected or abused children and homeless adults. Additional agency programs serve adults and youth with psychiatric disabilities, parolees, at-risk youth and other under-served populations in both residential and recovery-oriented settings.
For more information, visit www.communitymissions.org.