June 24 was, in every way, a pleasant evening of faith, hope and charity. The mild weather cooperated perfectly in plans for a special outdoor worship service at Southington’s First Lutheran Evangelical Church. Rev. Joshua Rinas led the congregation in the celebration of a blessing and dedication of the church’s newly expanded garden.

“Last year, we were able to donate 1,736 pounds of fresh, locally grown produce to Southington Community Services from our garden,” Rinas said. “This year, we expanded our garden by 40 percent and hope to increase our donations respectively.”

Attending the garden-side service were representatives of Bread for Life, YMCA, STEPS, Southington Community Services, United Way of Southington, Southington Activates, and L.E.A.F. (Lewis Farm Educational Agricultural Farm) and many others wearing Live Generous T-shirts.

Referring to these organizations, Rinas said, “They and others are all helping to build safe and healthy lives.”

Rinas invited the gathered “to ask God’s blessing as we dedicate our efforts in this garden to be used for God’s purposes on earth.”

Some of the guests participated in the musical sequence of readings during the service. Town Manager Garry Brumback said: “The idea of this garden as a way to help feed the hungry in our town is inspirational; one more affirmation of Southington’s community partners, collaborating in the genuine interests of our town and its human needs.”

Bill Ludecke, “farmer-in-chief” of sorts in the garden project, said: “We’re very grateful to Mark Ramsey and his L.E.A.F. team for their help, expertise and guidance in this project.”

Eldon Hafford, executive director of Bread for Life, said: “We thank all of you and the many giving organizations who make our mission possible.”

After a reading of Matthew 14: 12-21 (the feeding of the multitude with five loaves and two fish), Rinas reflected on the poignant meaning and connections of Jesus telling his disciples to go ahead and geed them (the thousands).

The pastor then announced that the congregation had voted to name the garden: The Garden of Loaves and Fishes.

The evening ended with a fine cookout dinner.

*Written by freelance writer Dick Fortunato