Columbia Drive Digs Down Deep

“When I saw kids from the community involved, and persons with food insecurities helping themselves to God’s bounty, I knew that we had been blessed with something wonderful.” 
At Columbia Drive United Methodist Church, community involvement is a key indicator that the church is fulfilling the mission and mandate of Jesus Christ to “go into all the world.”The members of “The Drive” understand that sometimes going into the world simply means stepping out of the doors and literally into the dirt.

In an urban landscape of the Columbia Drive corridor in Decatur, church members are engaging their community with opportunities to commune with The Creator as they cultivate seasonal vegetables, fruit, and herbs in small, raised-bed garden plots that are open to the community.

“Now, this is not just a planting, pruning, weeding, and watering ministry, this is a way to get people outside and into a place they can be free to experience God in unique ways,” said the Rev. Ralph L. Thompson, Jr, the lead pastor at The Drive.

Led by Deidra Wright, an educator, a part-time student at Candler School of Theology, and a certified Earth Keeper, this ministry features “The Garden Flow” which involves jazz, poetry, refreshments, and spiritual reflection. Convening in the middle of the church’s harvest garden, in the cool of the evening, it produces an inspirational vibe of harmony combining food, fellowship, and faith-building. Attended both by members of the church and the surrounding community, the garden has resulted in persons connecting to church through this ground-breaking ministry.

Rev. Thompson adds, ”When we first rolled out this ministry, I was optimistic, but I didn’t really know what to expect from it. When I saw kids from the community involved, and persons with food insecurities helping themselves to God’s bounty, I knew that we had been blessed with something wonderful.”

The key to rewrite spiritual engagement scripts involves finding that non-traditional niche and attempting with unwavering spirit to fill it for God’s glory. “Our gardening ministry helps us in strengthening our core values – allowing us to celebrate new ideas while honoring our traditional biblical roots. The garden is diverse, intergenerational, hands-on, and soul-satisfying,” Thompson further explains. Look around and see that God has placed within your church’s ministry wonderful opportunities to connect with people in innovative ways.

This garden ministry also harvests fresh seasonal bounty weekly and distributes it to the dozens of clients visiting the food pantry Columbia Drive hosts each Thursday. Recently, in collaboration with a local non-profit PAHL (Partners in Action for Healthy Living) directed by another Columbia Drive member, Edna Lora, The Drive hosted a live cooking event called H.E.A.T. led by celebrity chef and nutritionist Chef Zu using vegetarian components, some from Columbia Drive’s garden. This event saw a sold-out crowd and allowed the church to interact with more members of the community in a non-traditional way.

Playing in the dirt takes on a whole new connotation at The Drive these days. “Something wonderful is growing at “The Drive” and we couldn’t be more excited,” concludes Thompson.

The Rev. Ralph L. Thompson, Jr. is the pastor at Columbia Drive UMC in Decatur. You can email him at


This article was originally published the North Georgia United Methodist Conference newsletter, re:Vision: Stories of Innovation, Risk Taking, and Inspiring Ministry.  Deidra Wright is finishing her Master of Divinity at Candler School of Theology and is an EarthKeeper for the United Methodist Church.

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