Beekeeping Offers Insights for Healthy Parish Ministry

Rector Jann Brooks is shown various beekeeping items by Parish Development Missioner Emily Hill.
 on June 13, 2024
Photo contributed by Dr. Emily Hill

The first time that my friend opened a beehive in my presence four years ago, I felt a stirring in my spirit. It was brought on by the sweet smell of honey, the buzzing sound of the bees in the air, the deep hum emanating from the hive, and the sight of thousands of bright yellow bees busy at work. It was a feast for the five senses, and I felt like I was experiencing something holy.

It was a joy to be able to share this story and many others with the people of St. Paul’s, Caledonia on a beautiful Saturday earlier this spring. More than twenty adults and seven children gathered for “Bee Day” to hear about the spiritual, ecological, and practical aspects of being a beekeeper.

At the beginning of my workshop, the children gathered around the beekeeping supplies I had brought. As they touched the honeycomb, tried on the gloves, and smelled the honey, they asked me questions and wondered out loud about the life of bees. As their curiosity and wonder filled the room, I marveled at how beautiful parish life can be. Where else do you find different generations together, supporting one another, learning about God’s creation, and dreaming about new possibilities for making the world a better place?

It was the first time that I had the opportunity to bring my work as the parish development missioner in our diocese and my hobby as a beekeeper together. Surprisingly (or, perhaps not so surprisingly because God is always up to something), these two aspects of my life overlap in an interesting way.

There are many parallels that can be drawn between beekeeping and parish life. A healthy hive is like a healthy parish. Every individual is important to the group. They work together with a common purpose. Their steady commitment to that common purpose allows them to flourish while also benefiting those outside their walls. Their work makes the world a healthier and more beautiful place to live. And there is an exquisite mystery in their inner workings that points to the magnificence of their Creator.

The wisdom of experienced beekeepers about how to work with hives could also be helpful for parish leaders. Beekeepers learn to move slowly, stay calm, and focus because our inner state of being affects the bees. If we are anxious and move too quickly out of fear, the bees get stirred up. If we are calm and move with ease and confidence, the bees remain calm and flourish in the roles God created for them. Our role as beekeepers is to assist hives to thrive. It would be foolish to try to control the hives. Instead, we offer support so that they can live and grow in healthy ways and continue to play their vital role in the ecosystem.

S. Paul’s is exploring the possibility of becoming beekeepers together. They would like to have a few hives on a nearby farm that they take care of collectively. They are seeing this as an opportunity to care for God’s creation, get outside the wall of the church, and connect with their community. It would be a unique part of their Mission Action Plan. I look forward to continuing to support them in becoming more missional through beekeeping.

It is a privilege and joy to work with parishes on all aspects of Mission Action Planning. If you would like my support with anything related to parish life, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

  • Emily Hill

    Dr. Emily Hill is a member of the MAP Leadership Team, St. John the Evangelist, Hamilton. She also serves as Education Program Coordinator for The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

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