There is a tree, an oak, our tree I say,
although I do not know what kind of oak,
that stands like a beacon outside my church,
Metropolitan Community Church of Washington,
District of Columbia, United States of America,
a beacon of God calling the people
to worship, to focus on higher things,
to see the changing seasons through the glass
above the communion table, to see God’s sacred squirrels
and birds running, flying, landing in its branches,
reminding us that life is more than our
human-centered preoccupations, to accept
rhythms of life that beat the universe
into being and unfolding.
I love this tree, grateful to the people
who designed the sanctuary so that
when we sit in worship we face the tree,
even now as it is dying, leaves shriveling
up, clinging when they can to the branches
just like I want to hang on to the trunk,
resisting like the man in Tiananmen Square,
refusing to accept what the authorities
say I must, yet I know that denial
while real, must give way to tears, to grief,
to celebration of the faithfulness
of this divine creature, agent of God
who has served its time, whose angelic
presence is needed elsewhere now,
even as our memory will always be healing.
Authorities have painted the red blotch
of impending death on the trunk,
saying clearly tree homicide
is about to be committed
by those who don’t want trees to fall
on passersby or into the sanctuary—
I know they must do their job, but
how I wish we could give sanctuary
to our faithful friend, member, and beacon.
What we can do is hug—yes, hug this tree—
and speak our gratitude, perhaps we can
even make something from the wood
for the church as a permanent memorial;
never forget our friends, those who
stand with us through thick, thin, and in between.
God gave and gives us the church, and God shared
and shares God’s trees. Thanks be to God,
and thank you, Tree!!
About this poem . . . I love trees, all trees. The first time I entered the sanctuary at Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, D.C.–for a denominational function years ago–I immediately saw the tree standing tall in the clear glass above the communion table. I stared, teared up at the simple elegance of a tree–we say Jesus died on a tree, for one thing, and for another, trees signify life for me–in that vision. I never forgot that tree, and always looked forward to seeing it on other visits. Now, I am a member of the congregation, along with the tree, and I see my friend each week. I give God thanks for the gift which will never die in my heart.
©Robin Gorsline 2016 FaithfulPoetics.net