One of the first things many churchgoers do on Sunday mornings after they pass through the doors of West End Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton, Alberta, is stop at the Harvest Table. They drop off bags of apples, tiny ripe tomatoes, bunches of Swiss chard, humongous zucchini, green beans, rhubarb, carrots, and other produce from their trees and gardens.
“Each week it is interesting to see what is brought for the Harvest Table,” said Willie Renema, one of the organizers. “Some comes in large quantities and others very neatly packaged in small bags. . . . We are ever so grateful for people’s generosity.” Some people stop at the Harvest Table simply to admire the colorful arrangement. Many express surprise to see fresh produce in the church lobby, let alone at the opportunity to take some home at no cost. A few are curious about unfamiliar vegetables such as the flying saucer-shaped patty-pan squash, asking those behind the table, “What is it? What does it taste like? How do you prepare it?”
The idea for a Harvest Table originated with West End’s Creation Care Group, which began in 2012. The group’s mandate was founded on the CRC’s Creation Care Report adopted by synod (the CRC’s annual leadership meeting) that year. Joining together in study and prayer, the group strives to implement some of the report’s suggestions, both in their own lives and those of the congregation.
One of the first things the group did was study Cal DeWitt’s book Earthwise: A Guide to Hopeful Creation Care. The group has done many things, but their greatest success so far is the Harvest Table. “The easiest decision the Creation Care Group had to make was to repeat the Harvest Table in 2014,” said group member Andy Renema. In early spring, Renema encouraged the gardeners in the congregation, “Enjoy planting an extra row and have your kids be ‘stewards’ of their own little plot.”
Throughout the summer months the Harvest Table has served as a venue allowing gardeners in the church to bless others with the abundance from the seed they have sown. After the service everyone is welcome to take some produce. “For some people,” says Willie Renema, “this table represents a time when they were able to have their own gardens. For others, it helps their grocery budget. And for still others, it is an opportunity to try something new.” Sharing also ensures that all the vegetables, fruits, and herbs, so abundant at this time of year, will be eaten before they spoil. The Harvest Table will continue until the end of October.
“We hope that next year so much produce will be brought to the Harvest Table, we’ll be able to give some to the (Edmonton) Food Bank,” said group member Margo De Moor.