United Methodist’s ‘Garden Sanctuary’ nears completion

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by Dennis Dalman


An ambitious project dubbed Garden Sanctuary is expected to be completed this summer on the grounds of United Methodist Church of the St. Cloud Region, in Sartell at 1107 Pinecone Road S.

The church, which was for years on Fifth Avenue South in St. Cloud, just a few blocks from downtown, was rebuilt in Sartell about five years ago, using some of the former church’s stained-glass windows and other art works.

The Garden Sanctuary is far more than a “garden” or a “sanctuary.” It is, in fact, a multi-use area created on the property just west of the church. Landscape architect Jennifer Germain of Damon Farber Landscape designed the complex, which includes a large patio with a wood-fired bread-baking oven, an outdoor worship and concert space, a large walking labyrinth and a memorial garden where ashes from cremations can be interred.

In September 2018 the groundbreaking took place, and Todd Hodnefield of Heartland Landscaping Inc. was named general project manager.

Last month, the memorial wall surface stone and granite wall cap were installed. Sidewalks and labyrinth cement can now be poured. Other finishing touches are the irrigation system, electrical connection, a bubbling water feature and the church’s historic old bell. There will also be new soils, plants, trees, shrubs and mulch added.

A children’s play area near the garden sanctuary may also be developed.

The Sanctuary Garden is an outdoor extension of indoor spiritual pursuits. There will be outdoor worship services, receptions, weddings, concerts and meals from the bread oven.

Cremation ashes can be interred in the garden or scattered in the restored prairie grass areas of the garden. So far, 25 people have signed up for that kind of commemoration, including some who will have their names engraved on the garden wall, said Bill Meier, co-chair of the Memorial Garden Committee.

One need not be a member of United Methodist to have one’s remains’ ashes at Sanctuary Garden. The cost is $1,000, Meier noted.

“One of the goals in creating this space,” he said, “is to minister to all people, not just our church community.”

“We believe that many people’s loving connection with nature, faith and specifically the prairie will be an appealing option for the final disposition of their cremains,” Meier said.

Co-chair Jill Haak also emphasized the natural beauty of the garden area.

“Knowing that that location is a place of beauty, peace and dignity. as well as a living part of a faith-community’s life, makes it all the more meaningful,” she said.

Committee member Diana Klisch said the Garden Sanctuary inspires contemplation.

“This setting,” she said, “will now be surrounded by the prairie, where the songs of many birds, including meadow larks and the call of sandhill cranes can be heard. The contemplative walking of the labyrinth won’t be hindered by the noise and bustle of nearby traffic, as it was before (in the former church on busy Fifth Avenue in St. Cloud).”

contributed photo
This is an artist’s conception of the labyrinth feature of the Serenity Garden, which is now under construction at United Methodist Church in Sartell.

photo by Dennis Dalman
This photo, taken May 12, shows the unfinished patio portion of the Serenity Garden at United Methodist Church in Sartell.

Author: Dennis Dalman


Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.

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