• Paris
About Us

About Us

All Verdant Greening – Ascot Vale Church Gardens.

In 2004 the Ascot Vale Uniting Church in Maribyrnong Rd was burnt to the ground. As part of the rebuilding project, the congregation decided that the garden would be a key focus of local mission and witness. Since then, we have maintained a vision for ourselves as ‘The garden church’ but struggled a bit to realise the vision of developing the gardens into a public space for reflection, prayer and social action. During the Covid lockdowns of the past couple of years, I spent time exercising and exploring the local streets and found a real lack of public spaces where people could just come and rest in a place of beauty. This discovery spurred on the congregation to push on and complete the garden and open it as a space that could be shared by the community.

One of the ongoing challenges of the congregation is the public perception of the church building as a dead, burned-out space, rather than a alive place. So, with a bit of financial assistance from the Presbytery and a lot of energy from the congregation, the garden has been redesigned and now includes, a Peace garden (a meditation/prayer space with a simple labyrinth at its heart, two community garden spaces with raised vegetable beds, a Cloister Park open space with lawn surrounded by fruit trees and garden beds and at the heart of the garden we have the biggest garden feature in the Southern hemisphere (the old church towers). The vision is for the garden continues to be to create a space that is open to the public for community use, but which also has spiritual meaning and mission purpose for the congregation.

The Church gardens have now become a regular visiting place for many locals who now come into the garden rather than just walk by. The old church towers are a drawcard and an asset to draw people in and the church looks alive to passers-by, rather than derelict. In the future we dream of finding funding to enable the towers and garden to be used as an outdoor music and performance venue.

A couple of weeks ago we held a garden party and mini-fete to officially launch the new gardens. Our elder statesperson (Joyce Melbourne) cut a ribbon and made an eloquent speech to open the new space. Several hundred people attended the day and it was a great celebration.  

Hildegard of Bingen (the 11th C Christian Mystic) said, “The Word is living, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity.” Ascot Vale’s garden-based ministry has its spiritual and mission heart in a theology of God’s activity being evident in our garden practice. We see our gardens as a ‘little Eden’ where we, and others can seek intimacy with God and nature. The Church gardens are a place of retreat and solace, a place of hospitality, and a place that challenges both the gardener and those who just sit and enjoy. The practice of gardening is connected to our spiritual life, but it is also missional action that prompts us to act in justice towards the earth. Through the act of gardening we come into cooperative relationship with the earth, and out of that relationship comes the response of compassion towards the earth. In meeting the needs of our own soul for nourishment and beauty, we are also better equipped to nourish and care for others.