Bishop Andrew Forster has opened the Parish of Glendermott’s new Men’s Shed on a reclaimed site behind the Parish Hall on Church Brae in Londonderry.

The project is the brainchild of Select Vestry member Joanne Miller and the six men who comprise the Glen Fruit and Vegetable Growers group. The team, with help from the Rector, Rev Robert Boyd, cleared an area of land in a hollow to the rear of the rectory, and planted it with a variety of vegetables and fruit. They also erected a large polytunnel which has been filled with raised beds containing more ‘fruit and veg’.

Rev Boyd said the project – which was conceived and completed during the pandemic – had been “a lifeline” for some of the men involved.

Bishop Andrew cut an improvised ‘ribbon’ – in reality a piece of twisted sacking, or “recycled ribbon”, as it was jokingly described – to officially ‘open’ the Men’s Shed.

Bishop Andrew said he was delighted to see the land being reclaimed and used for greater glory. He said the Men’s Shed spoke clearly about the Parish’s commitment to its community. “What we have, here,” he said, “is a wonderful example of how as a community we can thrive together, and how we can reach out to the wider community, as well.

“One of the really important things to us, as followers of Jesus Christ,” the Bishop said, “is also how we care for the environment, and tend the environment around us, and I think that’s becoming more and more of an issue for us as Christians as we realise what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. [It means] to care for the creation that he gives us. This is a fabulous example of how we tend creation, care for creation, and delight in the created order that God gives us. When we walk inside this and see the tomato plants and onions and everything else growing, isn’t it wonderful to see the creativity of God?

“The third thing I want to say is this: in Mark’s Gospel, there’s a little verse that we often skip over. It talks about Jesus choosing his disciples and it simply says this: he chose them that they might be with him. Now what does that mean? For me that talks about friendship and companionship, and the world that we live in – we’re very connected with social media, and so on – but we’re not the friends we used to be. People tend to be apart and isolated, and we suffer because of that. And what Glendermott Parish, through this brilliant project, is doing is supporting friendship and supporting companionship, which is at the heart of the Gospel. And for this Parish to lead the way in this project is an example to us all.”

After the opening ceremony, parishioners, clergy and members of the Men’s Shed team enjoyed refreshments in the hall. The fare on offer included homegrown salad sandwiches (made with leaves grown literally a few metres away), and a stunning cake, baked by parishioner Catherine Boyd, which looked like a work of art. Indeed, the cake – which had been decorated to look like a flourishing allotment – looked so good, the Bishop said, that it was almost a sin to cut it. But he did cut it. And it tasted every bit as good as it looked.