On 29th September 2018 there was festivity in the air as members of Hope Church, Coatbridge and members of the community chopped and pressed the apples and bottled the juice. Children sat for story-time under a tall sunflower which masqueraded as Jack’s beanstalk. Old and young competed for the longest piece of apple peel and licked toffee apples as they chatted excitedly about the success of the orchard.
And success it is! The apple juice is quite definitely the best I have ever tasted, but there’s more: the hard work involved in transforming this piece of rough ground into a wheelchair-accessible place of beauty and productivity has helped the church members form deep friendships in the community.
At the suggestion of the minister, Rev Ivor MacDonald, whose brainchild the orchard is, the local schools have played their part too. First they had a competition to see who could design the best poster to make the orchard known. The two primary schools nearest to the orchard now each have a raised bed for outdoor learning activities. A bug hotel is envisaged in the near future as well as seats for quiet enjoyment of this beautiful place.
On that autumn Saturday as I sipped the juice, Isaiah 35.1 came to mind : The wilderness will rejoice and blossom. And I heard the Lord say :“Well done good and faithful servants in Hope Church, Coatbridge.”
I’m looking forward to visiting the orchard in the spring to admire the blossom. Meanwhile I’m thinking - how can I cultivate authentic friendships in my community?
Megan Patterson October 2018
Originally written for a church magazine 'The Record'.