Reimagining Church - Floriade Reimagined

4 Oct 2020 by Rev Elizabeth Raine in: Letters, Thoughts, News

Reimagining Church

The challenge of this current time—COVID Normal, some re calling it—is to be able to reimagine our lives. Social distancing, hand sanitising, wearing masks, limits on gatherings—all of these things require us to reimagine how we engage in social interaction, and how we practise our faith in our loves.

Tuggeranong Congregation in the south of Canberra has recently gone through a significant reimagining of its life as a Congregation. It has taken the stimulus of the present time to move out into the future with renewed creativity, imagination, and community engagement. It  demonstrates that the church as a whole is indeed capable of the spirit of the times—reimagination.
Each year in Canberra, a large section of a central park is planted out with bulbs, around this time of the year. Lots of tourists come in September, joining with many of the residents of Canberra, to enjoy the festival known as Floriade.

The bulbs that have been planted grow, silently and stealthily, throughout winter, so that when spring arrives, they are fully grown plants, ready to burst into a display of spectacular colours—in time for hundreds of thousands of people to walk through, enjoying the display. Indeed, 507,550 people saw the display in 2019!

This year, the ACT Government wisely decided that it would not be sensible to plan for a large, crowded event in September—with the uncertainty that crowds of people would be able to gather, even in the outdoors.

So they have implemented Floriade Reimagined. Bulbs have been offered to community groups, to be planted at dispersed locations right around Canberra. Those bulbs are to be planted in locations that are visible from the road. Now, in September, people are able to drive around Canberra and enjoy the displays of flowers in many community locations. 

Alongside this, in the southern part of Canberra, there has been an annual festival in Tuggeranong, called, quite appropriately, SouthFest. This has been based around the Tuggeranong Town Centre in past years, with many stall lining the streets, and a festive atmosphere pervading the day. But this year, again because of COVID-19, it has not been possible to plan for and hold the usual festivities. 

But SouthFest, alongside Floriade, has also been reimagined. And that’s where the Tuggeranong Uniting Church comes into the picture. They took their annual Spring Fair, and in 2019, gave it a strong sustainability focus. This year, they once again reimagined that that spring fair would look like. And so, SpringFest was born.

Tuggeranong submitted an expression of interest for Floriade Reimagined, and was awarded a set of bulbs. A crew of volunteers worked hard to dig garden beds, build up the soil, and plant the bulbs. Now, in September, the Tuggeranong Uniting Church is surrounded with colour, as the bulbs burst into flower.
As the same time, the Yarralumla Uniting Church did the same, with similarly spectacular results (pictured below). Yarralumla and Tuggeranong are on the visiting list for Floriade Reimagined this September.

And Tuggeranong Uniting Church, under the enthusiastic and energetic leadership of Elizabeth, along with a fine team of dedicated volunteers, has partnered with SEE-Change to have a modified, downscale (but still very much  appreciated) SouthFest happening, in the grounds at Erindale. The sustainability focus of 2019 was kept and expanded in SpringFest 2020.

SEE-Change, a local sustainability group, ran a series of workshops, in the community garden and the community hall, on topics relating to sustainability: composting, worm farms, bee keeping, and reducing plastic.

Meanwhile, in and around the church auditorium, the Red Dove Pre-Loved Op Shop was selling second hand clothes, the church was offering Devonshire teas and BBQ sandwiches, the Girls Brigade were selling delicious cakes, reuseable bags to replace single use plastic bags were on sale, as was a wide range of potted plants, and there was a Beeswax stall and assorted other goods for sale.

Why, the COVID Fairy was even in attendance (ensuring that all COVID Safe precautions were being adhered to). And she brought Senator Katy Gallagher along, to open the proceedings!
Floriade has reimagined itself. SouthFest has reimagined itself. COVID-19 has been the impetus. Tuggeranong Church has reimagined how it can partner with community groups to provide an enjoyable and inviting community event.

The next day, in the carpark outside the church, a service of the Blessing of the Animals took place. There were a dozen dogs, a stoic cat, and a good collection of rugged-up human beings present for the service, whilst Elizabeth gave thanks for the finned and scaled, furry and feathered creatures with whom we share life on this planet. 

This service was another example of the cbhurch being able to reimagine how we meet and what we do as church. Last year, the service (linked by tradition with St Francis of Assis) was held indoors. This year, the wonders of technology connected people at home, participating by ZOOM, with those gathered in the carpark. 

Gathering together—apart, in person and online, the congregation celebrated the faithful companionship provided by our pets and encouraged us to care for creation, nurture our animnals, and celebrate life with them. How much we have learnt, and how far we have developed, in using technology and adapting to changing circumstances, over the past year!

So here is the challenge for the church as a whole: how are we looking to reinvent ourselves? Can we take the stimulus of the present time to move out into the future with renewed creativity, imagination, and community engagement? Can we demonstrate that we are capable of the spirit of the times—reimagination?