Mission of Atonement Church photo
Oliver the dog in the Mission of Atonement garden.
Mission of Atonement Church photo
Oliver the dog in the Mission of Atonement garden.
BEAVERTON — Twenty-five-year-old Mission of the Atonement Church here is a mission of St. Anthony Parish in Tigard.  About 10 years ago, the community of Catholics and Lutherans formed a long-range planning committee, and dreams for land use started to take shape. Unfortunately, one of the key elements to a lovely landscape was missing, until Margaret and Ed Armstrong joined the church.

Retired science teacher Margaret has long been an active volunteer at Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District’s Nature Center in Beaverton. Her knowledge of gardening and native plants, along with her can-do attitude and ability to inspire and organize other people, made the community’s landscaping possible. Included in the dream was a Chartres-style outdoor labyrinth that would be open to the neighborhood.

After several years of planning and fundraising, the labyrinth was constructed with volunteer labor in 2009.

As the labyrinth was being built, Margaret and her team put their landscape plans into action. They created a berm to provide privacy from Scholls Ferry Road and designed and planted the labyrinth landscape. They updated a memorial garden and made it a more welcoming and peaceful space. They cleared away dead trees, blackberries, beer cans and garbage from the attached county easement and arranged for wood chips to be spread to control weeds. Margaret coordinates a large community plant sale each May, which provides baskets, flowers, and native plants while raising funds to support year-round landscape maintenance.

Nick Cannard added structure to the memorial garden, including a stone dry-creek bed. His work is bittersweet, as his 13-year-old daughter died before the memorial garden was complete. The space is a tribute to Leona and other loved ones.

Claire Gilbert works in the garden weekly and puts a great deal of love and work into the memorial site.

She arranges flowers, often from the cutting garden, for the sanctuary. Gilbert notices the variety of wildlife living on church grounds, and she made sure Mission of the Atonement became a registered wildlife habitat.

Judy Howell comes out and digs in the dirt almost weekly. She says it feeds her soul. The community says she feeds theirs.

Bernadetta Devlaeminck, religious education coordinator, works in the garden regularly, so a section is designated as the children’s garden.

Barbara Smith, librarian and office volunteer, tends to weeds and pruning. Her healing support comforts people and plants alike.

Marcia Anderson, also a recently retired teacher, is in the garden faithfully and is an integral part of the team. Her late husband Bill helped with the heavy work  — bulldozing and gravel spreading and wood chip distributing — until his unexpected death in a motorcycle accident one year ago. Memory of Bill is also warmly present in the church grounds.

On Tuesday mornings members of the garden team are out digging, weeding, potting, kneeling in mud or sweating in sun, chatting and serving and transforming the grounds, often sharing lunch together afterward. They’ve dubbed themselves The Dirt Sisters.
“Their hearts go into this hard work and God’s creation shines through,” said Susie Snortum, office manager.