In ‘normal’, non-Covid years, I set off a few days after Easter on my annual pilgrimage. This means that as I walk and visit churches and chapels along the way, I see lots of Easter gardens. With their very visual representation of the three crosses of Good Friday and the empty tomb of Easter Sunday, I find that I come across a considerable variety of these rather lovely scenes. These have ranged from the simple and childlike to large and quite elaborate creations, both in and outside places of worship. As well as the few twigs, greenery, small stones and spring flowers that you might expect, I’ve seen examples that include children’s action figures and even little Easter chicks.
Amongst my favourites, though, have been the one in I saw in a church porch in Somerset, where the design made imaginative use of steps that led up to the door to create a miniature hill of Golgotha. Another example that stands out in my mind was where a large and ancient tomb was used as an effective and somehow very appropriate base for a lovely Easter garden where primroses and daffodils were growing.
They may seem to be the seasonal equivalent of nativity crib scenes at Christmas but, whereas these seem to be packed away by the new year, I’ve come across well-tended Easter gardens even late in May. Perhaps the time and effort that goes into many of them encourages people to enjoy them for longer. I certainly do.
Easter gardens present us with a very simple and visual interpretation of the story at the heart of the Christian faith, one that we can create ourselves for our own satisfaction and also for the appreciation and enjoyment by others, even weary pilgrims passing by. I would even go so far as to say that Easter gardens can take on an almost sacramental quality; God ministers something of himself to us through what we make with some fairly everyday components. It may not be the bread and wine of communion or the waters of baptism but in making these symbolic ‘gardens’, God can come alongside in our twenty-first century lives.
Our world may seem very different to the one we read about in the New Testament but it is still where God lives amongst us in His Son and by His Spirit. He can take the spring flowers, the bits of twig and pebbles, our own greatly varying levels of skill and creativity and, yes, even the action figures and chicks, to show us more of the love and grace extended to us in the Easter story.
Over the next few weeks, why not look out for or make an Easter garden. Due to Covid restrictions, I don’t think there will be many inside churches but there should be some to see outside. However, if you don’t have much success or you need ideas to make your own or if it’s just difficult to get out at present, please look at my photos on the relevant page in the ‘Visiting’ section of my website at Easter Gardens – Pilgrim Street.