Church's garden is oasis in busy downtown Geneva

  • Dedicated bricks adorn the path through the memorial garden at Geneva Lutheran Church.

    Dedicated bricks adorn the path through the memorial garden at Geneva Lutheran Church. Rick West

  • The Elizabeth Ministry Garden at Geneva Lutheran Church on South Third Street changes looks throughout the seasons, with the chrysanthemums, zinnias, and ornamental grasses now dominating this fall.

    The Elizabeth Ministry Garden at Geneva Lutheran Church on South Third Street changes looks throughout the seasons, with the chrysanthemums, zinnias, and ornamental grasses now dominating this fall. Rick West

Updated 10/18/2010 10:35 AM

Downtown Geneva, with its charming shops and alluring festivals, may be a favorite destination for many people, but when they all come to town at the same time it can be anything but quiet.

In the midst of the commotion stands a garden that visitors have come to appreciate almost as much as Judy Wieser does. Wieser is a weeding and watering volunteer for this lovely flower display at Geneva Lutheran Church, 301 S. Third St., right in the middle of town.


"Whatever is happening in Geneva happens in that block, Wieser said. Geneva's bike race passes by there, and any beautiful-weather weekend or the annual wine and film festivals bring visitors by that downtown area.

"It's the most active block, and yet this church has provided almost a sanctuary from all that to escape for a moment and nourish the soul, she said. "(The garden) kind of wraps its arms around you, and you can be in your own place with your thoughts and prayers.

The Elizabeth Ministry Garden was originally conceived with a theme of motherhood, said church member Chris Chippas, who co-founded the garden in 2006.

Elizabeth Ministry, she explained, is a mentoring outreach to women in their childbearing years who want a listening, praying friend to walk with them through pregnancy, miscarriage, adoption or infertility.

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"It's based on the relationship in the Bible of Elizabeth and Mary, Chippas said.

So when the garden was created, "there were specifically picked plants and flowers, like lamb's ear and rose of Sharon, to go with the mother theme, she said. "It was just a place where people could go to pray, to think, to meditate.

Four years later, there isn't as much emphasis on the meanings of the plant names anymore, though Wieser still enjoys researching them. Project leadership changes every year, and Wieser and Chippas agree that this has been Dee Riani's season to shine.

"You might say that under Dee's stewardship the garden has really bloomed, Wieser said. "There are more flowers than ever before. I know that when I'm watering there, I never receive less than three compliments for the garden.

Wieser said a merchant from across the street stopped by one day to express his admiration.

"I've been watching this garden unfold, he said, "and it has turned into something really spectacular.


This fall, the garden is awash in mums of all colors, marigolds, zinnias and ornamental grasses tasseled in pinkish orange. The Japanese bushes have turned to red, and fallen leaves are beginning to color the walk.

In the spring, daffodils dominated. "You could see that garden from three blocks away, Wieser said. "It was solid yellow.

At other times, look for geraniums, phlox and sunflowers. Red roses symbolizing joy and love. Columbine representing gifts of the Holy Spirit. Rosemary for devotion and remembrance. Many other varieties of plant fill out the 250-square-foot area, too.

Visitors in any season can appreciate the three-tiered fountain or sit quietly on a bench or read the names engraved on bricks in the path. It's those bricks that help fund this suburban Eden. People can purchase an inscription for $30 in honor of a birth, baptism, anniversary or to remember a loved one.

For her part, Wieser has loved working the garden this year with Riani, currently recovering from surgery, and seems a bit awe-struck by what Riani has accomplished.

"She's just given the public so much pleasure, Wieser said, "and the church people so much pride.

For an astonishing performance of Beethoven's complicated "Moonlight Sonata, 3rd Movement, check out and search for Nathan Grabow.

The pianist was just 11 when he performed this demanding piece. He lives in Pennsylvania with his family, and his proud grandparents, Kimball and Ann Mountjoy, live in Sleepy Hollow.

Now 12 years old, Nathan will be at his grandparents' church, First Congregational Church of Dundee, to give a charity concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, at 900 S. Eighth St. in West Dundee. The concert will be followed by a reception.

This amazing performer, who began studying music at age 4, recently became the youngest winner ever in a national philharmonic piano competition. He has played three times at Carnegie Center's Weill Recital Hall in New York City, once as a returning special guest, and he performs original compositions in contests across the country.

A freewill offering at the Oct. 23 event will benefit the Community Crisis Center in Elgin.

As church fundraisers go, this one's in a category all its own.

Immanuel Lutheran Church of East Dundee will auction off a condominium recently received as a donation. Located on the second floor at Village Green, a senior independent living community at 605 Barrington Ave. in East Dundee, the one-bedroom condo comes fully furnished.

The auction is planned for 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, at Village Green, although the property is active in the market and could possibly be sold earlier. For information about the unit, required deposit or the finder's fee offered by the church, contact Bill Jansen at (847) 836-1538.

The Elgin chapter of Hadassah, an international women's Zionist organization, is opening up its "Tower Shower Monday, Oct. 25, to guests who'd like to hear more about the new hospital Hadassah is building in Jerusalem.

Providing medical treatment for all religions and ethnicities, "The Tower is expected to be completed in 2012.

You can also learn about Hadassah Medical Organization's latest research and medical developments at the 7 p.m. meeting in the Elgin Academy Rider Center, 350 Park St., Elgin. The recommended donation to the Tower Fund is $36.

For details or to make a reservation, call Nancy Zimmerman at (847) 828-6090.

"In the Spirit covers churches and synagogues in the Fox Valley area; contact to submit information or ideas for upcoming columns.


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