Tree of Life

As most of you reading this will be aware, work has begun on the Rectory and Glebe site.
Two days ago the team tasked to remove the trees began their work. With amazing speed
and some very specialised kit, I watched as the smaller trees were grabbed, quickly cut at
the base, lifted and moved to the growing pile. Just as one would cut and lift a daffodil or a
lettuce. The larger tree was taken down in stages.
I had the opportunity to speak with the man in charge who knew exactly what he was doing
and explained how this was not a mindless destruction but an intentional and necessary
precursor to the main work. Many of the trees he said, were crowded and overgrown and
not in a good state and most were conifers.
He had extensive knowledge about trees and was able to reassure me that my favourite
large tree was already dying and rotting and showed me the fungi on the side “always the
first sign”. Later, when it was felled I was able to see that indeed the inner parts of the tree
were affected and, as he said, could be dangerous as some of the large branches could fall.
I felt for that tree. The soft beauty of its bright spring leaves and the robust autumnal
colours had been a particular pleasure. When I first saw the dreaded red cross painted on it
some months back, we had a little talk. I expressed my sorrow and thanked it for its beauty
and the pleasure it had given over the years, I even asked its forgiveness. You may wish at
this point to contact the Diocesan ‘ We think our Rector has lost the plot’ department.
But trees matter, don’t they? They outlive us and speak of the passing generations. Who
planted that sapling or was it just nature? There was the remnant of a knotted rope
amongst the branches. How many children had played and climbed, made a swing or a tree
house amongst its patient boughs?
Trees are a symbol of history and the passage of time, how we wish they could speak. Built
in the late 1890s, the church connects the Victorian and Edwardian period. I imagine the
Edwardian Rector playing tennis on the lawn when tree was young. Two world wars and
many incumbents later, one of whom had five children causing the extra wing to be added
to the Rectory, each would have known and loved that tree. Last year it witnessed the
Queen’s Jubilee Rectory party; at least the tree and grounds went out on a high note.
My informative arborist told me that the wood will all go for recycling in various forms,
which is of some comfort. But the area is now a muddy heap of felled trees. Looking at it I
thought how parts of the Ukraine must look after a year of heavy bombardment and
although a different environment, the tragic and wretched pictures from Syria and Turkey
show a landscape transformed beyond recognition. Which puts the Rectory garden swifty
into perspective. Over time the amazing power of nature will restore such devastation.
There will be trees again, but they will emerge from the history from which they come.
The Bible has trees everywhere in its texts. They represent life, growth, provision, and
beauty. Many different trees are mentioned by name and each has a particular meaning.
They are present at every important stage of the Bible story. In the creation account trees
were described as ‘pleasing to the eye and good for food’ (Gen. 2:9), nothing else is

described as ‘pleasing to the eye’ in the creation account. Perhaps this is why they seem to
affect us deeply.
I am sure many of you are familiar with the poem by Joyce Kilmer who was born on
December 6 th 1886, around the time the church was built and who was killed fighting in
World War 1.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Rev Anne Dunlop