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Clergy Letter November 2023


This tree at Sycamore Gap on Hadrian’s Wall stood for over 200 years – witnessing life events from marriage proposals to the scattering of ashes. However sometime during the night of 27th September and the early morning of 28th September, this beautiful tree was felled. I’m sure many of you will be familiar with the accounts of shock, anger and sorrow felt by so many people from the local community and beyond. This tree really was loved by people across the world who struggled to understand why anyone would decide to cut it down. I wonder what it is about trees that evokes such strong emotional responses in us – almost as if they were living, breathing creatures – which I suppose they are!

Some species of tree are bound together in a single root system. No doubt you’ve heard of the “World Wide web”, but the idea of the “Wood Wide Web” may be new to you. Steve Aisthorpe describes something of this in his book, “Rewilding the Church”, Saint Andrew press 2020. “When we stand in woodland, beneath our feet are immeasurable networks of fine thread-like filaments of fungi known as “hyphae”. Through these vast fungal grids, signals are transmitted, warning of insect attacks, drought and other dangers. Trees and plants facing difficulties receive assistance from others…yes, trees really do talk to one another!” I’m sure trees could teach us more about community and interdependence.

Apart from people, trees are apparently the most mentioned living thing in the Bible. Isaiah wrote, “You will go out with joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst forth before you and all the trees of the fields will clap their hands”. Isaiah 55:12. Psalm 1 refers to the person who delights in God’s laws as being “like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.” Psalm 1:3

Perhaps there is something about the strength and longevity of trees that draws us towards God; trees provide us with shelter, with fruits and with the air we breathe; in autumn they lift our spirits with their vibrant colour – and remind us of the hope of resurrection as the bare branches bud again in spring. The tree from Sycamore Gap will live on in new forms too – items of practical use and of creative beauty fashioned from the trunk while the stump will hopefully generate new shoots.

Our Benefice Retreat Day on Saturday 18th November, is an opportunity to learn more about trees. Archdeacon Karen Lund will lead “A day of travelling together to study the rhythm and patterns of trees and the way they support our spiritual life”, Check out the details on our Bulletin and Website and sign up ASAP if you would like to come.

Rev Chris S

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