We think we might be able to turn this eyesore into a feature, and a craftsman who carves trees is coming to Bradley churchyard later this week to explore the possibility with us.
It is a some time ago that St George’s had to raise £5000 (most of the annual turnover of this village church - there was a generous response in the village) to make safe several horse chestnuts which had been attacked by bleeding canker. If we had had further money at the time we might well have gone on to remove the frankly ugly stumps which remain, but we didn’t.
This picture was taken in the summer (the bags in the centre relate to work which was being done refurbishing a grave) and only shows the most prominent of several stumps with which we have been left.
For a little while we’ve been canvassing the idea that the stumps might be carved, and that the results might become something people would want to come to see. I fancy a ‘calvary’ or an ‘empty tomb’ which could even be a focus of devotion for those who find the church itself locked. Another idea is to have at least a dragon or perhaps a St George as well. There is also a desire for a bench in the churchyard; the fear that such a bench might be stolen would certainly be eliminated if it was part of a tree trunk and thus literally rooted in the ground.
There are various hurdles we’d have to jump to pull off a project like this. Is the wood sound enough for such carving? Is the craftsman able to take the particular stumps and ideas and do something with them? Would his design be fitting for bereaved people who visit graves here? Would it help us preach the Gospel? Would the diocesan and heritage bodies whose permission we’d need let us do it? Would a recent legacy of about £3500 be enough to cover the work involved? We shall see.
I sometimes use a hackneyed sermon illustration about a beautiful pearl which had been so deeply scratched that no amount of polishing could make good the damage, but which was eventually engraved in such a way that the scratch appeared to be the stem of a rose. I sometimes take people to see the ‘Bishop’s Eye’ window in Lincoln Cathedral whose kaleidoscope beauty is the result of fragments of mediaeval glass being set together as something new which transcends the tragic loss of the original design.
We don’t look to God for some sort of magic to avoid or remove the messes we inflict on ourselves or which are inflicted on us, but we do look to him for the Easter possibilities which will take us to a renewed places albeit with the scars still visible as were those of the crucifixion. If we can pull off this project, I’d like our tree stumps to be another parable of this.