Over 125 plants are named in the Bible; however, most individuals have little idea what they are, what they mean, and how they were used by ancient peoples. Last year St. John Lutheran Church started a garden designed to showcase Bible plants. Currently, the church Bible garden includes about 70 plants such as the rose of Sharon, fig tree, black mustard, and lily.
The garden is the brain child of Bruce and Carolyn Roth. Both Bruce and Carolyn are Roanoke Tree Stewards and Carolyn is a Virginia Master Gardener. They spend about two hours each morning tending the garden.
According to Mark Graham, senior pastor at St. John, “The Bible Garden helps people connect the beauty of God’s Word to the beauty of His work of creation. It’s become one of the most appreciated and enjoyed features on our church grounds.”
Each Bible garden plant is labeled with its name and one reference where the plant is identified in the Bible. The Bible verse promotes connections with God’s creation and his written Word.
St. John children’s ministers, Dale and Rosalind Stanley, are enthusiastic about the garden. Dale said, “This garden brings to life what was once merely words on a page and creates connections not only between the plants in the Bible and in the soil, but the promises from the Book to each child himself or herself.”
Carolyn and Bruce hope to expand the number of garden plants. They completed two trips to Israel and Jordan to study plants that grow there. In one visit, they stayed on a frontier kibbutz in Israel’s Negev Desert and consulted with a botanist at Ben Gruion University. The Roth’s admit that finding Bible plants that grow in the Roanoke Valley is a challenge. At times they use the American plant that best corresponds to the one that grows in the Middle East.
The Bible garden at St. John church is the only known Bible garden in southwestern Virginia. Jim Forney, president of St. John Council, noted that the Council supports the garden because it is both a witness to the Lord’s handiwork and spiritually enriches church members.
St. John Church welcomes visitors who want to view plants. The church address is 4608 Brambleton Avenue SW, Roanoke, VA 24018. No appointment is necessary; however, if visitors want personalized tours, they should contact the church office (540-774-0712) to schedule a time. Parishioners are available to give talks on Bible gardens and plants to churches and civic groups.