Prayer Garden

The Stations of the Cross, and the Stations of the Resurrection

WELCOME TO OUR PRAYER GARDEN. This is a place of quiet retreat, open to the community during daylight hours every day of the year. In any season, come to re-collect yourself, re-connect with God’s creation, restore a sense of calm in your busy life, and allow God to speak into your soul.  Please respect the sanctity of this place.

The Stations of the Cross is an ancient spiritual devotion: Early Christians in 2nd-century Jerusalem walked the
“way of the cross” through the holy city, pausing to pray at 14 key spots where Jesus struggled through his last hours. The
practice spread through the Mideast and Europe during the Middle Ages, and now is observed by Christians world-wide.

The Stations of the Resurrection is a new spiritual devotion. Fourteen signposts of Easter are associated with parallel
signposts of the Passion. As you walk the path, note their interplay: How death leads to life, how suffering gives birth to
healing, how sorrow and grief can be surprised by joy. The Bible readings and prayers in this folder can be your guide.
May God’s Spirit touch your spirit in this holy place, where saints are baptized and saints’ ashes await Jesus’ return.

The following will guide you through the prayer garden.

The Story of the Prayer Garden

We think the late Ron Bardwell, who commissioned the original prayer garden in the late 1990s as a memorial to his wife Sherri, would have been happy with the way the SOC prayer garden eventually turned out. The garden lies in a wooded area along a creek on the congregation’s property, north of and below the hill on which the church building stands. Stairs lead visitors down the hill to the prayer garden and the creek.

In Ron’s original garden there were 14 large crosses, representing the 14 Stations of the Cross, some of which remain, though others have deteriorated in the weather. Two or three are still in the present garden, and at least two more can be found back in the woods.

Pr. Ron Voss, who organized SOC as a mission congregation two decades ago, baptized Daniel Hendon in the creek in the summer of 1988, near the point where the path descends to the water.

There is a small memorial at the top of the stairs for the stillborn baby of some former members. It consists of a brass marker on the edge of the walk, and a rose tile laid in the stone walkway.

During the years after Pr. Voss left in 2002 and before Pr. Alan Rider arrived in 2006, the garden went to seed (as it were), with no one looking after it. Ron Bardwell was sad about that, but he didn’t complain. Weeds grew up throughout the walkway, and most of the crosses collapsed.

Shortly after Pr. Rider arrived, SOC member Marilyn McLaughlin died suddenly. It was her wish (handwritten on a piece of paper found in her personal study Bible) that she be cremated and have her ashes lain in the prayer garden. Pr. Rider found that Indiana law pertaining to the disposal of cremated remains would allow this, and the church council then created our current policy that members’ ashes could be scattered on church grounds. Marilyn’s son Matt and his wife Cindy, other family members, and Pr. Rider walked through the garden one day and picked a place that Marilyn had liked, near the baptism area. On another day they committed the ashes there; and later SOC member Betty Russell donated a wooden bench for the site in Marilyn’s memory. There is a little plaque on it, and SOC member Bill Graves set the bench on a concrete base.

Former SOC member Jon Means became our property chair about a year after Pr. Rider arrived. Jon organized a new property committee and set to work on a number of projects, eventually including a clean-up of the prayer garden. This pleased Ron Bardwell. Jon had previously worked professionally with a self-employed landscape designer named Michelle Preble of New Castle, IN. Now Jon, with financial help from Ron, commissioned Ms. Preble to lay out a new design for the garden, using less space than before. She visited the site twice and prepared the plan we now have.

A new SOC member, Rick Hodge told Pr. Rider about his hobby of working with tile. Pr. Rider and Jon then asked Rick to see what he might be able do for the prayer garden, and they provided him with artwork downloaded from the ELCA’s “Sundays and Seasons” database (that all congregations are free to use if they subscribe). Rick created two sample tiles portraying Stations of the Cross. They were beautiful.

Soon after that, Pr. Rider was getting more artwork downloaded from “Sundays and Seasons” when he got the inspiration to add “Stations of the Resurrection” to parallel the 14 biblical “Stations of the Cross” (not the ancient traditional fourteen stations that you would follow on the streets of Jerusalem, but the biblical ones used by both the Lutheran Church and – since Pope John Paul II – also now by the Roman Catholic Church). Pr. Rider says: “I think the core idea for Resurrection Stations came to me while out on a bike ride, which is often a prayer time for me.” He then worked out a plan based on the scripture readings from the lectionary for the Easter season, and gridded it up with the Lenten stations, so they would have a rough equivalence. Some of them are remarkably parallel:

1. Jesus prays in the Garden in anguish / The Women go to the Garden in fear (Gospel for Easter Day-B)
2. Jesus is surprised by Judas’ deceitful kiss / Mary Magdalene is surprised by Jesus (Alt. Gospel for Easter Day-ABC)
3. Jesus is tried before the doubting Sanhedrin / Peter & John, doubting, go to the tomb (Gospel for Easter Day-C)
4. Peter abandons Jesus in the High Priest’s courtyard / Jesus visits two disciples who are feeling abandoned on the road to Emmaus (Easter Evening & Easter 3-A)
5. Jesus tried before Pilate / Jesus meets the disciples in the upper room (Easter Day-A)
6. Jesus is beaten & mocked / Thomas has questions & doubts (Easter 2-ABC, part I)
7. Jesus bears the cross alone / Jesus bears Thomas’ doubts and brings him to faith (Easter 2-ABC, part II)
8. Simon of Cyrene helps bear the cross / Jesus shares breakfast with his friends by the lake (Easter 3-C)
9. The women minister to Jesus on the road / Jesus the Good Shepherd ministers to us, John 10 (Easter 4-ABC)
10. Jesus is nailed to the cross, crown of thorns / The Vine and the Branches (Easter 5-B)
11. Jesus promises salvation to the penitent thief, “You will be with me in paradise” / “I am going to the Father” (Easter 5-A)
12. Jesus commits Mary to John’s keeping / “May they all be one”, John 17 (Easter 7-ABC)
13. Jesus descends to the dead / Jesus ascends to life (Ascension Day-ABC)
14. Jesus dies, “It is Finished” / The Holy Spirit is given in the upper room, beginning of the Church (Day of Pentecost-ABC)

Rick Hodge then created tiles for all fourteen Stations of the Cross and the fourteen Stations of the Resurrection and set each pair on a wooden post. These new stations of both the Cross and the Resurrection were set in place at positions along the prayer garden’s path. Our SOC Prayer Group (founded by Marilyn McLaughlin) wrote prayers for each station, and a little booklet was put together as a guide for visitors.

The church raised funds for new plants and for much of the needed landscaping work by dividing the projected costs ($7500) by 13 and accepting memorial donations. SOC member Rick Hodge donated his artwork and craftsmanship to the project; and in gratitude to him, the church dedicated the 14th station to his parents. Individual members and groups subsequently subscribed to the remaining stations. Several families had specific reasons why they wanted certain stations. The McLaughlin family sponsored a special site, now called Station #15, where Marilyn is buried, near the baptismal area of the creek.

In 2009, under the supervision of current property chair Wayne Stone, several workdays were held to clean out the weeds and level the ground. Bill Cohron, brother of SOC member Brad Cohron, and his work crew did the lion’s share of the earthmoving, including drainage work to reduce erosion. The prayer garden’s current winding paths were laid.

Then, on a warm, sunny day in October 2009, about 40 SOC members planted most of the 460 trees, shrubs, and perennials, procured by SOC member Bill Bushlack, that had arrived that morning in a huge truck. Many families did the planting on the plots they themselves had sponsored. Three members, Toshi Hatcher, Cindy Stone, and Steve Lavey, returned on subsequent days to complete the planting project. Michelle Preble’s landscaping plan often called for the plants to be coordinated with the theme of the station. For example, Station #10 speaks both of Jesus’ crucifixion and of his words that he is the vine and we are the branches. So the daylilies planted around that station are blood-red, evoking both the cross and the wine in the cup.

That same weekend the SOC youth planted flowers around the church’s brick sign near the road.

At about this time, one of the members of our Boy Scout Troop completely renovated the fire circle as his Eagle Scout project and set up one of the old crosses there. The site is now used occasionally by our Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Sunday School classes. Two summer Boy Scout Courts of Honor have been held there to date.

After the renovation was completed, two children, Matthew and Emily Lavey (son and daughter of Steve and Jane Lavey) were baptized by immersion in the creek at the end of a Sunday morning service in July 2009. The congregation witnessed the baptism from the bank.

Meanwhile, three living members of SOC have already set apart places where their ashes will be committed some day, and one of them has planted a flowering tree in preparation for that.

Currently, Toshi Hatcher is our main gardener and caretaker. Ron Bardwell has now died, but his legacy and his memorial garden live on.

SOC members and others from the community often visit the prayer garden before or after church and at other times during the week. Member Jackie Wright says: “The prayer garden at Servants of Christ is a place where I can go to be at home with the Lord and let the sounds and beauty of his creation bring peace to me. I can give him my troubles or those of others I know that are in need of his help, or just sit and “be still” and know that he is GOD!