In a field behind Greenwood United, just outside Peterborough, Ont., four beehives buzz with activity. The Greenwood community has been keeping bees since 2016. Earlier this year, their efforts received an accolade from Bee City Canada, a national organization that encourages municipalities, businesses and other organizations to become bee-friendly. Greenwood United is the first faith community ever to receive a Bee City designation.
Greenwood is an amalgamated church, formed from the union of St. Matthew’s and Donwood United churches in 2014. After the merger, the new congregation decided environmental stewardship would be a core value, and beekeeping became a way to live out that commitment.
“As a faith community, if we don’t look after the planet, we’re missing something,” says beekeeper and church member Brian Nichols.
Between five and 10 congregants care for the bees, and another group is in charge of the surrounding pollinator-friendly gardens. The beehives generate enough honey to provide each family in the church with a small jar every year.
Bees and other pollinators play an essential role in our ecosystems, but they are threatened by habitat and food loss due to urban development and industrial farming techniques, according to Bee City Canada.
The hives also serve as spiritual inspiration. “The first thing I felt walking into a hive to work was calmness,” says Greenwood beekeeper Ruth Benson.
“It’s kind of therapeutic,” agrees fellow apiarist Anne Wilson, “as long as the bees are happy that day!”
Rev. Allan Smith-Reeve, the minister at Greenwood, is inspired as well. Bees “co-operate in this common cause, and they end up with this sweet product.” Churches should emulate that kind of community, he says.