Video: Abuzz about bees

August 28, 2016

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a continuing series about Episcopal Church congregations that are involved in community agriculture. Other stories in the series can be found here.

[Episcopal News Service – Seattle, Washington] They are just two three-part boxes on the roof of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, but thanks to their 40,000 occupants, they are beginning to house sweet combs of honey that will help expand a growing beekeeping movement in the Episcopal Church.

Not only does the apiaries movement yield both revenue for ministry and examples of stewardship of creation, beekeeping is also in tune with the traditional use of bees and their hives as symbols for Christians and the church because of their selfless community labor. For example, St. John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople in the late fourth century, praised the bee, saying, “The bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but because she labors for others.”

The Seattle cathedral’s bees took up residence in late May and were blessed July 12 by Diocese of Olympia Bishop Greg Rickel. They are the latest addition to the cathedral campus’ growing gardening efforts on its slice of creation atop the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. The honey they produce will be sold and the money used to buy more hives. Eventually, said cathedral member and beekeeper Brian Sellers-Petersen, any extra money could fund beekeeping projects elsewhere.

St. Mark’s apiary is part of an increasing number of hives being maintained by Episcopal Church congregations and institutions. Among the varied locations are Virginia Theological Seminary, Bluestone Farm in upstate New York, St. John’s Cathedral in Denver, Colorado  (with 400,000 bees on its roof making beeswax for candles and honey), the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York and Thistle and Bee Enterprises in Memphis, Tennessee. Apiarists also keep bees at Manchester Cathedral in England and at Notre Dame in Paris.

The United Thank Offering recently gave Navajoland Area Mission a $41,500 grant for projects that include “Bees Bring Hózhó to Navajoland.” Not only will the bees bring hózhó’s qualities of peace, balance, beauty and harmony, but with 40 hives housing 20,000 bees each in and around Good Shepherd Mission, Fort Defiance, Arizona; St. Christopher’s Episcopal Mission, Bluff, Utah; and San Juan Mission, Farmington, New Mexico, the project will be a commercial venture in beekeeping, according to Sellers-Petersen.

Sellers-Petersen, senior adviser to the president of Episcopal Relief & Development and a champion of church-community agriculture, is a budding beekeeper and the impetus for installing hives at the cathedral. The work of keeping bees, he said, is one way to be a steward of creation by making a small contribution to increasing the declining number of these essential pollinators across the world.


Petersen helps run the Episcopal Beekeepers Facebook page ( where people interested in beekeeping can connect.

The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.



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