Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Transforming Heritage

At a called charge conference tonight, the leaders of India Hook UMC approved a plan to convey a small section of property plus some rights of way for the new highway widening project. This project is needed in order to make access to the new India Hook Elementary School as safe as possible. The state offered the church $11,000 for this transaction. Although the money will help fund a new toddler playground and nursery renovations at the church, we will lose several trees in the process, including one of our "heritage trees" next to the sanctuary.

We call this special tree a heritage tree because it was planted by "Miss Sherwood" shortly after this sanctuary was built in the early 1980s. Sherwood is in her 90s now and has been on the roll of India Hook since the early 1910s. She kept the church going during the difficult years of the Depression and World War II by visiting members on horseback. When she planted that tree, she hoped that it would shade the building on sunny Sunday mornings for several decades to come. Miss Sherwood and her tree have been connection to the church's past even as India Hook looked to the future.

Now that 50 foot water oak planted by Sherwood will come down. That heritage tree has seen its last spring day. But that is not the end of the story. The people of India Hook UMC have decided to work with the highway department to take the heritage tree down gently, and transport it to a saw mill and then to a woodworker. With the wood from Miss Sherwood's heritage tree, a 10ft by 5ft cross will be built. The church plans on hanging the cross from the rafters in the window above the pulpit. In a beautiful sanctuary, this suspended cross will become central to that worship space.

As I consider this ongoing journey of the heritage oak that will become a cross, the deep and descriptive word "redemption" comes to mind. There are plenty of times that we see a relationship, a job, or a way of life as a loss or at an end. We see and focus on the failure, the finality of that which stares us in the face. Surely, the disciples saw that as Christ hung on His Cross. But God had something else in mind; death, loss, failure were not the final words of Christ's ministry. God had a new beginning in mind for humanity through the Resurrection of Christ.

Maybe in the transforming heritage of Miss Sherwood's tree there is a reminder of what God can still do with our broken relationships, our desperate lives, and this hurting world. May India Hook live out Sherwood's hope and God's vision as we remind the community around us that redemption continues one moment and one life at a time.


1 comment:

Stephen Taylor said...

First, exciting to see the way the congregation is creatively responding to forced change, some heritage preserved, and some preparations for future ministries. Secondly, make sure they do a first class job with the mounting bolts on that cross or it will create its own historical moment!