(Written by Kathryn Bingham and read at the Family Service on Sunday 3rd June, 2018)tree logo

Sarah’s family had lived in the same town for generations and all had attended the same schools. In fact Sarah’s great, great grandmother had been at her primary school when it first opened, way back in Victorian times. The story was told in the family about how her great, great grandmother helped to plant the little oak sapling that had grown into the magnificent oak tree in the playground. There had been a special ceremony to bless the tree as they planted it in the ground and all the children sang a song:

Our blessings we give to this beautiful tree As we plant her in the ground
And bless its roots, shoots, trunk and leaves And send great love all around
And send great love all around

All the children had been asked to imagine the tree living very happily throughout the years ahead and to imagine all the children who would play under it and all the creatures who would enjoy living on it. The great tree angels and nature spirits heard their wish and had protected and given their special love to the tree ever since.

Over the years countless children had both played and sat under its protective branches, enjoying its beauty and its shade. Each one had noticed something different about the tree – some loved to watch the squirrels playing hide and seek around its trunk; others would listen to the blackbirds singing their hearts out from the topmost branches; others would watch the ladybirds patrolling the leaves for food, whilst others would collect the acorns and make tiny toys and furniture for their dolls. The tree had indeed been loved for generations and never more so than by Sarah’s family who felt proud to have been part of its gift to the school.

Not long ago a new head teacher had come to the school. She wanted her school to be very neat and efficient and for a while she was busy sorting out many changes to the way the school was run.
Then her thoughts turned to the playground. That great oak tree bothered her. It was a nuisance standing there right in the centre of the playground – it meant that netball and football games had to be played elsewhere and the classrooms nearby were rather dark... The falling leaves and acorns needed constant clearing up in the autumn and goodness knows what damage the roots were doing under the playground and the school itself. Something had to be done...

The first time Sarah began to notice something strange was when some smart men in suits came into the playground with their clip boards, cameras and tape measures. Sarah she didn’t like the way the men were looking at the tree. During playtime she crept as near as she could and heard words like, dangerous, risk and subsidence- this didn’t sound good at all. That evening Sarah asked her mum about it and to her horror discovered that there was some talk about getting rid of the tree as it was a health and safety hazard. Sarah could not believe it – surely they couldn’t be thinking of chopping down the school’s beloved tree.

As Sarah went to bed that night feeling worried and sad, the words of the tree planting song suddenly came into her head and she imagined seeing her great great grandmother and the other children helping to plant the tree all those many years ago;

Our blessings we give to this beautiful tree As we plant her in the ground
And bless its roots, shoots, trunk and leaves And send great love all around
And send great love all around

So as Sarah snuggled down to sleep, she decided to ask the angels to protect the schools beautiful tree, to continue to bless it and protect it.

Now when angels hear such a heartfelt prayer, they will always come close to help in any way they can. And as Sarah slept she had a dream. In this dream she saw her oak tree with the huge and wonderful form of an angel surrounding it. The angel was so big, and yet she wasn’t frightened at all. There was a feeling of great peace and love shining out from the angel and Sarah understood that the angel would, in some way, help her save the tree. When she woke the next morning she found herself feeling happy and confident that something good was going to happen.
At the same time as Sarah was getting out of bed, the head teacher was arriving at the school, very early as usual, her mind full of all the many jobs that needed doing that day. As she drove past the playground she happened to look at the tree. The sun was just rising behind it, and the sunlight sparkled through its branches and leaves. Wow how beautiful it looks, she found herself thinking. She’d never noticed the tree’s beauty before. Somehow it made her feel a little happier and less anxious about the day ahead.

When her secretary arrived a few minutes later, the first thing she said to the head was – do you know what I just saw – a woodpecker in the branches of the oak tree! I’ve never seen that before!
And as the rest of the staff arrived, each one came in bursting to tell everyone something about the tree that they’d just noticed for the first time – a sparrow hawk, a squirrel with a crooked tail, a purple emperor butterfly, a hedgehog in the leaves under the tree....... and as each one came into the staff room having spotted something new, they all began to laugh at how strange it was that they had all come in with a similar thought!

As the day continued, more unusual coincidences began to happen – Class 3 chose the oak tree as the start of a story; class 4 began an art project drawing the shapes of the oak leaves and class 5 decided to build an owl box for the tree as their design project. And best of all class 6 decided that they wanted to do their nature project about oak trees and to plant a new tree at the back of the school for future children to enjoy.

Suddenly everyone was talking about and looking at the tree. It was as if they’d never really noticed it before and now they were making up for lost time! Weren’t they lucky to have such a wonderful tree in their playground?

Even the head teacher began to feel differently about the tree – so it was with a bit of a shock that a few weeks later she received in the post a detailed tree report from the education office, giving permission for the tree to be cut down if the head still wanted it to be. What a ridiculous idea she thought – and asked her secretary to file it away at the back of a drawer!
Sarah was so happy when she heard the news that the tree was safe. That night she said a great big thank you to the angels and in her dreams she saw the tree angel once again. To her surprise the angel also thanked her for helping to open the eyes of everyone to the beauty of the tree. We need your human help too, the angel said.

A few weeks later Sarah was especially proud and happy when Class 6 planted their new tree sapling at the back of the school and together they sang the words of the song from her great great grandmother’s day – to which she had added a few new verses of her own:

Our blessings we give to this beautiful tree
As we plant her in the ground
And bless its roots, shoots, trunk and leaves
And send great love all around
And send great love all around

We welcome the tree spirits of this tree
As we plant her in the ground
And bless its roots, shoots, trunk and leaves
And send great love all around
And send great love all around

We ask for the blessing of the Father Mother Sun
As we plant her in the ground
And bless its roots, shoots, trunk and leaves
And send great love all around
And send great love all around