To re-plant the orchards
Beside the house into which I was born, sits a small plot of land. Over 40 years ago my grandfather labored and toiled until he had filled this entire ﬁeld with fruit trees, an orchard full of peaches and pears. I remember walking through that ﬁeld when I was young. I remember my grandfather plucking ripe peaches and peeling them right there with his ever-present pocket knife. I can still taste the sweetness, the warmth of that fruit.
Today, some 40 years later, when I return to my parent’s home and I stand on the front porch looking out into my grandfather’s orchard, I see nothing. It’s all gone. Due to a combination of disease, neglect, storms, and the general negative effects associated with the passing of years, those trees which at one time had been so carefully planted, cultivated and cared for, are now mere memory. All, except for one tree. A single, lone pear stands as a memorial to what was once a vibrant orchard bearing good fruit, bringing sustenance and delight to surrounding neighbors and family.
There is a deep sadness that I experience as I relay this simple story from my history. And yet, it is not a story which I carry alone. Much of the Bluff Park area itself was once planted in orchards. Today you can still see the historical marker on Park Avenue which identifies the home of the orchard’s overseer, built in 1889. But again, in our neighborhood where vibrant orchards once stood, now only distant memories remain.
While this story of fruit and field is a story of my childhood in southwest Alabama as well as our own neighborhood surroundings here in Bluff Park, it could just as easily be a story about the broader landscape of the Southern, evangelical church. Fields, orchards planted years ago with great care, great effort, and great hope for the future, orchards that once bore good fruit, bringing sustenance, nourishment and life to their communities. Orchards that now, due to spiritual decay, indifference, violent theological storms, or the general negative effects of the passing of time, are largely mere echoes of their former glory, save one or two weary and scarred trees.
We believe that through the planting of new churches and the revitalization of those already in existence, that God is about the business of replanting His orchards in Bluff Park and in Hoover and beyond. Our desire is for Bluff Park Community Church to be a tree which is planted, nurtured and grown by God’s grace, living out a Gospel MESSAGE in Gospel COMMUNITY on Gospel MISSION so that our surrounding neighbors might beneﬁt both from its shade and its fruit.
But our desire is not to merely plant a single healthy tree. Beyond this, our desire is that through Bluff Park Community Church, future faith communities will be planted so that one day these once vibrant fields will again provide beauty, shade and nourishment to our surrounding city. All to His great glory.