19 Jun 2018

'Refuge, health and growth': A Community Garden

St. Benedict instructed his monks to receive all guests as Christ, “for he will say, ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’” (Rule of Benedict, 53:1; Matthew 25:35).

Christ Church Amsterdam has just wrapped up a busy weekend during which they welcomed over 2,000 visitors to a new community garden and the church. As part of Amsterdam’s Open Garden Days, that saw 25+ gardens in Amsterdam open to the public, two artists (local students) helped redesign the church's courtyard. They worked with the congregation over the past few months to create over 60 clay pots each with a unique design, reflecting the diversity already present in the church. Although each is different the pots all fit together beautifully in one space. 

The Revd James Hill writes, "Another key aspect of the garden is that it is home to a number of rescued plants and others that will be nursed back to health. My prayer for the church is that it too will become what the garden beside it already is: a place of 'refuge, health and growth'. The grant came from the Amsterdams Fonds Voor de Kunst. In terms of outreach this will be a blessing to our recent initiative to open the doors to the public on Tuesdays. We now have a visual parable for telling this part of God’s story of rescue."

More about the Garden


This is a community garden project designed by two artists from the Sandberg institute. The basic idea is that we want this garden to be a place of refuge, health and growth. Over the past few weeks people from the Christ Church community have created over 60 pots of diverse shapes and sizes to help house a variety of plants. Over the next few weeks neighbours and passers by will be invited to bring in any unwanted plants and plant them in this community garden with a difference.

This garden is home to some plants which have already been rescued from various parts of Amsterdam. They will continue to be taken care of, to grow and some damaged plants will be restored back to health. This is also an image of what church can be when it is working with the grain of God’s priorities: to be a place of refuge, health and growth. Over the next few weeks neighbours will be invited to bring in their plants that they have either found or no longer have any use for. The hope is that this courtyard garden will really reflect the diversity of the community it’s growing in.

Back story

Last summer (2017) the minister and his wife were visiting a relative in Amsterdam North and she shared with them that, sadly, the community garden she had been looking after over the past years was going to be demolished and new apartments were going to be built in its place. This meant that all of the plants would be displaced and seeking a new life in a safer environment. So we offered our courtyard at the church to be a place of refuge for some of these and other plants. We had built up a good relationship with Droog (the art and design shop next door) and they suggested that we could be a part of Opentuinen Dagen which is an annual festival that sees 1000s of people exploring 25 or so hidden and mostly private gardens in Amsterdam.

Our problem was that our courtyard was fairly ordinary looking. At the same time as this one of the art students had walked into Christ Church and asked the minister, James Hill, if he could be a part of a short film project he was creating about international marriages. James agreed and in return asked said art student if he would design the garden for Opentuinen Dagen. A proposal was put together and submitted to the organisers at the end of 2017 and was accepted to be a part of the program.

A little about Christ Church

Christ Church is an international Anglican church where all are welcome. We meet every Sunday at 10am. We usually have around 90 people on a Sunday from over 32 different nationalities. We began life over 300 years ago for mostly English people but over time it’s become more diverse. The spot where we worship has some famous characters connected to it. Hendrik de Keizer (15 May 1565 – 15 May 1621) used to live here, and Rembrandt painted his famous Staalmeesters painting here (1662). Interestingly during the winter and spring of 1878 Vincent Van Gogh taught Sunday school in our daughter church - the Zion chapel which met just up the road on Barndesteeg.