9 May 2023

Shetland: Prayers, produce and polytunnels

Majors Bev and David Womersley

Photo shows Majors Bev and David.

Majors Bev and David Womersley explain how The Salvation Army is caring for creation on the island of Shetland.

Stewards of God’s gifts

We have been at Shetland for just under two years and it really is a unique set-up. God led the Army to place us here after the corps at Lerwick closed. We don’t have a building or an established congregation, yet we feel immensely privileged to minister to the island community in a new and environmentally friendly way. We quickly realised that we just needed to be open to using the gifts he has blessed us with. Having previously had an allotment, this soon became our focus for prayer.

Prayer and produce

When we arrived, we were literally starting from scratch, but God’s handprint was all over it. Prayer and produce were the words that kept coming to us and so we explored what these meant. A local crofter and his wife, who were complete strangers, approached us and kindly offered us land and to build us a polytunnel and provide the necessary items to get us started. We were blown away by that. We now work in partnership with them and, in blessing us, they tell us that they have also been blessed by seeing all the work being done for God’s Kingdom. This weekend is the first anniversary of the opening of that polytunnel and there are plans for a second.

Pallets and planting

The produce we grow from the donations of seeds and plants is for the benefit of the community. This year we’ve introduced an area of raised beds that schools, a local church and others are overseeing with the support of Major Dave. On Saturdays in our fridge there are home bakes available, and in the shed food produce and items made using leftover pallet wood are all available.

Everything is on a donation basis, nothing is priced. Dave has been making planter boxes and these have been used to encourage families who might not have a garden or an allotment plot, so they can sow a few carrots or onions and watch them grow. Woodcraft items are sold locally to raise funds for our mission. We have a prayer table and library in the shed too and we’re looking to add extra facilities. It’s evolving all the time.

Eco and ecumenical endeavours

Being positioned at the southern end of the island – where there are fewer church expressions compared to the town – has opened different opportunities. We have the best of both worlds now. We join on Sunday afternoons for worship with a charity group in town and Major Bev supports many other areas of work in the community, making and maintaining connections.

We are registered with Eco-Congregation Scotland and last year their chaplain, the Rev David Coleman, spent an afternoon with us at the polytunnel. We are awaiting confirmation of our bronze award for our ongoing sustainability initiatives and skills. We also work closely with groups from areas such as Orkney and Aberdeen.

Photo shows the Shetland polytunnel.

New wine in new wine skins

Our mission was never to replicate or continue what had traditionally taken place at Lerwick Corps. When the division were praying for guidance on the Army’s future ministry on Shetland, it was felt that it needed to be totally new and fresh. Our God is definitely one of surprises and creativity – we can vouch for that!

Find out more about becoming an eco church: 

Resources to help corps and centres observe Environment Sunday in early June.

Major Nick Coke reports on the Army’s involvement in the No Faith in Fossil Fuels event that took place last week.

As the Army steps up its response to climate change, Major Heather Poxon outlines her role as territorial environmental officer.

The Salvation Army's International Positional Statement on Caring for the Environment.

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