SOUTH BOSTON — Before Main Street United Methodist Church could install an irrigation system for its new Prayer Garden, members of the Prayer Garden Committee would come early in the morning to water the site.
"Members would come down at dawn to water, and they'd find people already walking in the garden, stopping at dawn to watch the sun rise, and to meditate or pray," recalled Rucker Eggleston, a member of the church's Prayer Garden Committee.
The Dedication Ceremony for the Prayer Garden of Main Street United Methodist Church was Sunday, April 27, 2003.
When the project was first announced more than three years ago in September, 1999, the first job was to clear away two truck loads of trash, debris and poison ivy. Committee members walked the property, brainstormed ideas and began to see that the property almost naturally divided itself into four areas. This has now evolved into the Meditation Garden, the Sun and Shade Garden, and the Children's Garden. A fourth area will be a future project of United Methodist Men.
The Sun Garden was the first to be developed. This area, next to the split-rail fence, was dug sixty feet long by twelve feet wide and four feet deep. The first plantings were seven crepe myrtle trees all donated by committee members as memorials to their families. Members of the congregation shared bulbs from their yards and homeplaces and over six hundred bulbs were planted that fall.
Instead of Easter lilies, the congregation brought more than seventy azaleas to church. These were then planted in the Shade Garden area next to the fence by the Methodist Education Building. An armillary, donated by the Memorial Committee of the church and memorial St. Francis statuary were placed here.
Some of the azaleas were placed in the Children's Garden which is just below the walkway between the two churches. This area has four stone benches in a natural circle meeting area, the very beautiful and unique Burton Memorial Fountain and St. Anthony statuary. Close to this area is a small sitting or meeting area with wooden chairs and a bench.
The first item to be placed in the Meditation Garden, the area closest to Main Street was the cherished nine-foot copper cross, designed and donated by Robert Cage. This was set in a huge stone for the second Easter of the Garden.
Because the cross is visible to the three churches in the immediate area, he created a three-dimensional rather than a flat cross. "I wanted something so that any way you looked at it you'd see a cross," said Cage.
The stone retaining wall was also a major project. Committee members selected stones one by one at a local quarry until a truck load was accumulated and hauled to the Garden property. Certain committee members had the very special stone mason skills to build and finish the actual wall. Old curbstones from South Boston city streets were used for the steps which lead to a beautiful aggregate sidewalk leading into the Garden from Main Street.
The most recent project is the laying of the flagstone terrace which circles the cross. More stone benches will be placed in this area, and some future sensor lighting is planned. This Meditation area is planted in only green and white blooming flowers, shrubs and trees including our Star Magnolia tree.
One goal of the committee is to have year round beauty in the Garden with choice of plants and our very efficient and water-saving irrigation system. It has the azaleas that bloom twice a year and just donated were a dozen Lenten Roses, one of the few winter blooming flowers. Most of these are in the Shade Garden around the wooden letters reminding passers-by that you "You Are God's Child."
The committee's major goal — to develop the Prayer Garden open to the community as an ecumenical quiet place for prayer or meditation, a place to "Be Still And Know That I Am God" — is almost completed.
Members of this special committee are: Betsy Anderson, Meredith Bowman, Thelma Crowder, Jean Church, Rucker and Tom Eggleston, Vivian Evans, Betty Felton, Gene Haugh, Janice Irby, Jane Jones, Sally and Art Lambrecht, Jennifer Mackintosh, Roland Maitland, Lois Newman, Sarah Wade Owen, Don Wilkerson, Marian and Troy Wilkerson.
A quotation on a bronze plaque in The Prayer Garden sums up what the committee thinks is the purpose of the Garden: "Let the peace of this place surround you as you sit or kneel quietly. Let the hurry and the worry of your life fall away. You are God's Child. He loves you and cares for you, and is here with you now and always. Speak to him thoughtfully, give yourself time for Him to bring things to mind."
"This belongs to a member of the Best Committee that ever was! Most creative, most knowledgeable, most hard-working and MOST APPRECIATED FOR ALL THAT YOU HAVE DONE for The Prayer Garden of Main Street United Methodist Church, South Boston, Virginia." This inscription is on a key ring given to members of The Prayer Garden Committee by Chairman Sally H. Lambrecht.
Open to all in the community, the Prayer Garden is filled with azaleas, peonies, tulips, dogwood trees, and a myriad other flowers and growing things. It offers "a quiet place, to be still and know that He is God," Eggleston said.
Begun nearly two years ago, the garden was the brainchild of Committee Chairman Sally Lambrecht. A retired C.H. Friend Elementary art teacher, Lambrecht was attending an art seminar in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1998 when she was inspired by a long time established Prayer Garden she found there. Lambrecht soon brought her idea home to South Boston, suggested a prayer garden as a use for the church property once occupied by the Hunt house.
The Methodist Administrative Council agreed to Lambrecht's vision in the spring of 1999, and in September the prayer garden committee was formed and began work.
"People just started saying, `Yeah!' and volunteering," exclaimed Eggleston, "and it just took off!"
Although it's obvious that a lot of hard work and dedication has gone into making the property a spiritual place of rest, Eggleston said that most of the materials and labor have been donated by both members of the church and members of the community.
"It hasn't taken much," she said. "When we've had a need, God has supplied it, literally. It's just that simple. When we first started working on the garden, we let it be known through the bulletin and the church newsletter that anyone who would provide anything, to bring us a plant, or some flowers, or bulbs."
"And it's turned into a wellspring. People bring us plants ... and we decided we needed some trees to mark the border, and people say, `I'll give one,' and `I'll give one, how many do you need?' and all of a sudden we've got the seven that we need!"
The church's entire congregation seems to have pitched in in some way or another, noted Eggleston. For instance, instead of asking for Easter lilies last Easter, the church requested that people bring azaleas for the garden instead. "That Easter morning we had almost 70 azaleas, all in the church!" she said. "It was glorious, all different colors."
"And it just grew," said Eggleston. "We wanted some benches and people said, `Well I'll give a bench,' or `I'll give a chair!' We've had some donations like the Saint Anthony statue down there under the dogwood tree, and the Saint Francis."
"Let the peace of this place surround you as you sit or kneel quietly. Let the hurry and worry of your life fall away. You are God's Child. He loves you and cares for you, and is here with you now and always. Speak to him thoughtfully, give yourself time for Him to bring things to mind."
South Boston Walking Tour
Bob Cage Sculptures