Sometimes, being a trustee of our church takes on a more hands-on dimension. Such is the case for Board of Trustees member and Master Gardener Barbara Duckworth. From the time she and her husband, Michael, joined FUMCFW in 2016, transferring their membership from The Woodlands United Methodist Church, Barbara says she was struck by the potential in the grounds surrounding our beautiful architecture at what could be done in the area of landscaping.
This, she has understood from the start, is a deeply felt ministry. “I am so passionate about doing the gardens and the marquis beds and doing whatever my skills give me to be helpful and of service to the church,” she says. “I love gardening and landscaping; It’s very fulfilling work. And at the same time, I feel very strongly that it is part of my service to our church as a trustee.”
Crediting her passion and desire for gardening to her mother, Barbara laughs, “She could grow anything. I grew up on a farm and she had acres to landscape. This love is something that is in my DNA.”
Barbara has particular memories of combining twin passions for gardening and service to the church, modeled for her by both parents. “When I was growing up, Memorial Day was also called “Decoration Day,” she recalls, “and my mother, the frugal person she was, would save all the soup and other types of cans she had used during the winter, and she would wash them and decorate them with wrapping paper, and then line them all up and fill with cut flowers from her garden. Then we’d go out and put them on family and others’ graves. Sharing those flowers in that way was so important to her.” Barbara shrugs, then adds, “So that’s where I come from and why it means so much to me.”
Reflecting further on this heritage of gardening and service, Barbara says that she also remembers how her father always saw to it that the churchyard was mowed every Saturday while her mother was groomed the flower beds, much like she did at home, in preparation for the Sunday worship service. “So, in addition to gardening, it is in my heritage and DNA to be in service of the church and to support the church with my prayers, my presence, my gifts, and my service.”
Barbara says her own love for gardening began to blossom when she, as a member of Seabrook Methodist Church, decided with a group of about 10 women, mostly from UMW, to create a “biblical garden” in an open and empty space between the church’s administrative offices and its sanctuary. A biblical garden is a garden comprised only of the more than 125 plants, trees, and herbs referenced throughout the Bible. (Here’s a list, compliments of gardeningknowhow.com.) “It was one of the most joyful and fulfilling experiences of my life,” Barbara relates, beaming. “We raised some money and then tilled up this blank canvas and turned it into a beautiful, thriving biblical garden.”
Elated by this experience, Barbara then went on to complete her Master Gardening and Landscaping certification program. Then, when the opportunity arose to mastermind the landscaping for the 34-acre Lakewood Yacht Club in Houston, Barbara was ready and glad to accept. Traveling back and forth to this enormous campus two days a week, she brought her landscaping plan there to fruition before she and Michael moved to Fort Worth and began visiting and then joined First Church.
“Looking at the potential of our beautiful grounds and finding a very peaceful, contented, and tranquil experience just sitting in our church Garden set my little imagination running wild,” she remembers. “I really see our Garden as another sanctuary,” she adds, “and therefore, making it neat and tidy and pretty was something I very much wanted to be part of.” Barbara says that as she drove around other campuses in and around Downtown Fort Worth, the landscaping and flowers and seasonal plantings were something she very much wanted for our church.
Barbara says that although she genuinely loves working with other people and had a lot of suggestions, she was unsure how to approach the church with her ideas. “Our staff is so capable, and I was unsure how to get involved without seeming critical,” she adds. “I wanted everyone to understand that my making these suggestions is another way of involvement and support of the church. I needed to find a way to be in service.”
Then along came an opportunity for Barbara to serve on the FUMCFW Board of Trustees, and Sandy Williams, Director of Operations, expressing a desire for Barbara’s help. She smiles. “So that’s how it all began!
Saying that this work is just beginning, Barbara and Sandy are now working with a firm called SPSD that manages seasonal plantings in Sundance Square and other beautiful areas of Downtown Fort Worth. “I hope that we can continue to take the big steps toward fulfilling our long-term masterplan for First Church landscaping,” she says. “I totally appreciate the need to generate interest; with added interest from our congregation comes other commitments to fulfilling this plan.”
Barbara adds that she would like to see our facility management budget expanded to include more landscaping and initiate features that will live on to bless future generations of our church. “I think it’s so important that our grounds reflect that we are alive and well, and the spirit of God is palpable here from the curb to the pulpit.”
And as for the garden that is the most recent gem Barbara and Sandy have helped polish to a new luster, just in time for Easter Sunday, Barbara emphasizes her belief that our Garden and its landscaping provides a place of natural beauty in which the landscaping serves as an invitation to the greater Fort Worth community. “Our garden offers an open invitation to people to come and sit and contemplate,” she adds, “and providing the substance for this messaging that can be carried by each one of us our into the community is something I feel so strongly about.”
Going back to her love of working with people to bring landscaping projects to fruition, Barbara emphasizes that this program is just getting on its feet, and she would love more participation and more people to be involved. Expressing her hopes that her love for this work will spread to others, maybe even to someday establishing a First Church Garden Club, Barbara smiles, then adds, “Once you experience the joy of being in service through gardening, it’s infectious; you want to experience it again and again.”
Melinda Folse Smoot is a writer, editor, collaborator, and content strategist. In addition to her work for FUMCFW, she has a deep passion for telling stories that make a difference. With a focus on faith, grace, hope, and spirit for faith-based organizations and other clients, Melinda is always on the lookout for people with inspiring stories to share. If you have a story of faith you’d like to share, please contact Melinda at email@example.com.