Rebecca’s Garden at Christ Church Parish of Ontario bears considerable fruit, including spiritual rest. Named for the late Rebecca Rollins, a college professor and the parish organist who always dreamed that the church’s underused back forty would someday flower, it features a labyrinth designed by church member and landscape architect Ashanti Smalls. It’s also the centerpiece of the Center for Spirituality at Christ Church, Ontario, California, brainchild of the rector, the Rev. Gianluigi Gugliermetto.
The garden grow figs, grapes, and olives, surely among the leading biblical food groups, in rich soil nurtured by a compost heap which, in fewer than two years, has transfigured 6,000 pounds of food waste, much of it from neighboring venders, while seeding yet another miracle — a richly needed new ministry.
Because through a neighboring composter, Church Church met Francisco, a San Diego building contractor who suffered a traumatic brain injury on the job nearly 14 years ago. Friends say he lost almost everyone and everything. He slowly battled back. About a year ago, he began working with Christ Church’s compost team.
Before long, an innovative new ministry sprouted. Encouraged by the rector and his fellow parish leaders, Cisco had build up a group of 30 TBI sufferers who meet weekly at the parish for mutual support, sharing of resources, and work in the garden.
That’s how Jesus works his healing miracles in modern times. Rebecca’s vision of a garden and a parish’s spirit of Bienvenido, with a compost heap as the linchpin, resulting in a fellowship opportunity for those who often find themselves isolated, even spurned because of the manifold and unpredictable ways the brain reacts to injury and trauma.
I was along today at Christ Church to preach and celebrate. Fr. Gigi is in Italy, caring for his mother, Esther. Well briefed by junior warden and engineer Cash Sutton, assisted in the beautifully designed Anglo-Catholic liturgy by longtime members Patricia Orton and John Mark Lindvall, I began by inviting prayers for the victims of the mass shooting Saturday night in Monterey Park. What a blessing to learn Cisco’s Resurrection story from garden volunteer Mary Roberts at a festive reception after church.
I also met Fidel Arnecillo, pastor of the Symposia Church, which nests at Christ Church and was rocking the house by 1 p.m. The church’s Facebook page features content in which Dr. Arnecillo, a thoroughly moderate evangelical, stakes out his ground as a thoughtful critic of what he calls the heretical expression of Christian nationalism.