Our Garden Story
St. Mark’s & St. John’s is proudly located in the Beechwood neighborhood in the city of Rochester. Dismal statistics have made Beechwood and our adjoining neighborhood, EMMA, a focus area of the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI). There have been many talented and caring people from all corners of our city and surrounding county who have met, strategized, mapped, and then met some more in hopes of stopping the downward spiral of oppressive forces that are at play in our neighborhood. The issues are complex and Rochester, as is true with so many other places in our country, did not get here overnight.
For decades SMSJ was emblematic of what was happening in our neighborhood. We were losing members and money, having to heat and keep up a large physical plant, all the while professing to be a beacon of hope for those who needed it. In 2012 the church's leadership decided to chart a different course. We stopped praying for our own institutional survival and started praying that God would direct our hearts, minds and hands in a way that we could make our neighborhood a place more reflective of God's dream for all of us. So we stopped attending meetings and literally started digging.
Since then we have started seven urban vegetable gardens. Tangible signs that transformation, life and health are possible NOW. We've nurtured and harvested thousands of pounds of vegetables and distributed them to our most vulnerable sisters and brothers and their children. We've laughed and cried with our neighbors... mowed grass, picked up trash, pulled weeds, spread compost, handed out food, anointed those who sought healing, danced with our kids, watched the sun go down on the front steps with our neighbors, canned salsa and sauce, and tried to not take ourselves too seriously. We've witnessed the miracle as groups from Starbridge and Heritage Christian Service planted tiny seeds and were amazed together as they grew into something we could share for lunch. Along the way we have been changed, and are continuing to be changed by the magnificent people who live, work, and love in our neighborhood. Come be a part of it.
Together we are changing the world - one tomato at a time.
Kids' Club Growing Academy
Our four + vegetables gardens produce over 4,000 pounds of fresh vegetables each year.
The food is sold at very attractive prices at our Saturday Farm Stand that operates in July and August in front of the church. Excess produce is donated to a variety of partners including Jennifer House, Bethany House, Sister Regis food bank, and House of Mercy.
SMSJ operates a Farm Stand every Saturday morning from July-August. We sell vegetables grown on site and offer other fresh vegetables from Food Link. Some Saturdays we have music and cooking demonstrations.
Every third Wednesday of the month, we offer food, clothing, book exchange and a mending station as well as a healing service at 10 am to anyone who wants to join us.
We love volunteers. In 2017 we had thirty three volunteers that tended the EDEN Gardens and staffed our Farm Stand.
During school vacations, we offer Kid’s Club Growing Academy, a program for children that includes two healthy meals, a snack, and fun/educational activities.
The activities typically include enjoying the Bible, secular literary activities, crafts, music, exercise, healthy and interactive food demonstrations, play time, a field trip and a show put on by the children that is the highlight of the party held at the end of the week.
We host three Free Little Libraries, one at the church, one at our garden 622 Merchant Road, and one at 1403 E. Main St.
Leave a book in our kiosk and take one to read.
At SMSJ people feed their spiritual lives by participating in regular Sunday worship. The different seasons of the church year aid in spiritual growth by creating a context that allows for time
to reflect on various aspects of the spiritual life.
For example, in Lent we experience a time of reflecting on our lives and an opportunity to adopt a spiritual practice that turns us back toward God or we may decide to give up a habit or practice that keeps us from God.
Spiritual retreats are offered several times a year that focus on specific spiritual growth topics.