A national scheme to create community gardens using the world’s most famous Bible verses has enlisted the help of an award-winning Berkshire church that prides itself on its idyllic outside space.

St James’ Church in Finchampstead, near Reading, won The Church Times’ Green Church Award for its churchyard in 2017. The church’s rector, Canon Julie Ramsbottom, says: “Using an outdoor space is a way of enabling people to flourish. It enhances the life of a community.

“I think churches should think hard about maximising the use of their surroundings. It’s so important as a message to both the church and community, that the church doesn’t just take place inside the building. Church is more outside than inside.”

Julie and churchwarden, Ed Sampson, feature in a video shot by the Bible Society to promote community gardens. At the centre of the Bible Society’s campaign is the development of The Psalm 23 Garden, designed by multi-award-winning designer Sarah Eberle, brings the famous text of The Lord is my shepherd to life. The garden will be part of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2020.

“I want to engage people’s emotions,’ says Sarah about The Psalm 23 Garden. ‘It will stop people in their tracks and make them look. The psalm is quite clear in its description of landscape,” she adds. “Most people can understand that and get their own interpretation out of it. It’s relevant whether you are a churchgoer or not. That’s nice. It makes you think about it.”

After the Show, it is hoped that communities, churches and schools across the country will be inspired to create their own Psalm 23-based gardens in all kinds of places: church grounds, community plots, disused plots of land and unused school outdoor areas.

You only need four elements from Sarah Eberle’s design to achieve this: water, meadow, a tree and somewhere to sit. It is hoped that churches will be among those who work with keen gardeners from their local communities to create shared, beautiful spaces in churchyards. An estimated two-thirds of the Church of England’s 16,000 churches have churchyards, which collectively cover the area of a small national park. Churches in many other denominations have spaces they can use as well.

According to Christian Research, 65 per cent of churches have grounds that could be used for gardening. One in four of churches surveyed said that they were keen to use their outdoor space, but needed advice about what to do.

Videos and downloadable resources showing how to create your own garden featuring Fran Clifton, Head Gardener at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, and videos of churches that have developed their grounds, will be available to get people started in the spring, from The Psalm 23 Garden website.

There will also be resources for schools, including an assembly and tips on how to create a schools’ garden encouraging children to get their hands dirty and learn about the beauty of nature. This is particularly important for children who live in cities and may not have had the chance to get involved in gardening before.

“Anyone who gardens knows that it increases your sense of wellbeing,” says Hazel Southam, spokeswoman for Bible Society. “But gardening together on a shared project is particularly special.

‘Any community – whether they have a faith or not – can take this beautiful Psalm and create a garden based on it. The Psalm offers something to reflect on as we journey through life. The gardens that people create will be individual, unique to their setting, whether in a school, community land, allotments or in a churchyard. We’re really excited to see what beautiful spaces people create over the coming years.’

After the Show, the Psalm 23 Garden will find a new home at Winchester Hospice in Hampshire, which is set to open during 2020. Maddy Thomson, Clinical Matron of Palliative and End of Life Care at Hampshire Hospitals, said: ‘The garden will represent such a special place for our patients and their families, who can enjoy precious moments together, or find quiet reflection in this beautiful outdoor space.

“We are absolutely delighted that we will be able to offer this as part of the care and support we provide and know that it will make such a difference to the families being supported by Winchester Hospice.”

In the video, Julie outlines her five top tips for creating a garden are part of the video. They are; survey your surroundings, get the key people you need to help in place, make a good plan of what you are going to do, take everything little by little, and tell everyone what you are doing and how wonderful it would be if they joined in.