”My Happy Place” is a weekly Press series in which local notables take us on a tour of a favorite spot in their home.

MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — The Rev. William Blake Spencer’s care and attention to his “happy place” — the side yard garden at his home in Whitesboro — has also provided a visual treat for his neighbors.

Before Spencer and his husband, Jim Wagner, 52, got married and moved into their new 1,400-square-foot home a year ago, nothing was blooming in the side yard, which also serves as the house’s front yard, Spencer said.

“(The neighbors) talk to us when walking by our house. The garden is a way to get to know people here as well,” said Spencer, 58, who is the pastor of Ocean Heights Presbyterian Church in Egg Harbor Township.

Wagner and Spencer planted everything that has been growing for the past year.

Spencer’s contribution has been basil and cilantro to what started as a circular herb garden, but even it contains some flowers for color now.

A mosaic glass garden globe sits on top of an old antique bird bath base that has been placed in the middle of the herb garden. The globe reflects the sunshine during certain times of the day.

Spencer only knew how to care for lawns, shrubs and herbs, but Wagner taught him about growing flowers.

“I come out here, usually in the afternoon is when I sit out here,” Spencer said. “It’s the shadiest part of the yard. Even though there is traffic, I have learned a lot about this garden. It’s so fun to watch its blooming and what’s next. Something different happens out here every day.”

A cross is attached to one of the side yard trees. Spencer has a stained glass window from his childhood church in Conroe, Texas, in his living room. He sits on his couch near the stained glass window to write his sermons on Saturdays.

One half of one of the living room walls contains photos of Wagner’s family and friends, and the other half of the wall holds pictures from Spencer’s life and family.

There is no TV in the living room to encourage people who stop by to have conversations instead.

In the living room, Spencer’s things include his mother’s childhood rocking chair, which is more than 100 years old, and a partially melted huge Santa Teresa candle from Mexico that was given to him by a group of women from a church in San Antonio.

“Most of our stuff is connected to family and stories,” said Spencer about the items and furniture in his living room.

Staff Writer

Twenty years as a staff writer in the features department, specializing in entertainment and the arts at The Press of Atlantic City.

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