Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Peace Presbyterian Oak

I've been promising to tell the story of the "Peace Presbyterian Oak" so here goes. My church, Peace Presbyterian in Winterville, N.C. bought a tract of land early in 2006 to build a new church on. We were being forced into a move from our old location due to the widening of a major thoroughfare around Greenville, N.C. and the continuing commercialization of the area. It was a difficult move for many of our members but in the long run sound decisions were made and we began construction on a new facility about a year ago. The property we bought came with an old turn of the century farm homestead complete with out buildings and it even had an old milk pit out under one of the sheds to store milk and other perishables in the cool of the underground. There was a huge old 2 story farm house and an adjoining pack house and numerous shelters. Nestled in amongst all these buildings was a giant oak tree that seemed to tower over the entire collection of buildings. Only after we had purchased the property did we begin to realize the enormity of this tree. It seemed in very good health, with a girth of 20 feet, a height about 85-90 feet and a canopy that covered a diameter of 125 feet or more. After the demolition or moving of all the old buildings you could really see the oak in all its splendor. I think that was when some of us really began to develop a relationship with the tree. Maybe I should say that I developed a relationship with the tree since I don't want to accuse others of having any of my strange afflictions. The more I looked at it the more magnificent it became and the more attachment it had to me. We researched the tree through local sources and the Internet and learned that it was a "Swamp Chestnut Oak", also known as a" basket oak" or "cow oak". Seems it was the oak of choice for wood to make baskets from and also that cattle had a particular attraction to its acorns. Local experts tell us the tree is around 100 years old and was the tree of choice around farm homesteads in eastern North Carolina around the turn of the century. The tree sits just 100 feet from Old Tar Road that connects Greenville and Winterville, N.C. Our new church is positioned in such a way that as you ride by on Old Tar Road and look in our direction you see both the "Peace Oak" and the new and magnificent "Peace Presbyterian Church". It is indeed an impressive site to behold. We have cleaned out under the canopy of the tree and gone to great pains to make sure the tree was not damaged during the land clearing of the property and construction of the church. It is doubtful that grass will grow very well under the tree in that it provides total shade to the area for probably 9 months of the year. We are uncertain at this point as to just how we will develop the ground under and around the tree and are seeking advice on how best to make sure we don't jeopardize it's root system in any way. One project we have decided on is that we want to take some steps to recognise the tree and communicate to others the attachment it has to our church and its members. So....one evening a couple months ago, well after beer o'clock I set down at this keyboard and pecked out some comments about the tree and we have had them forever emblazoned in a slab of bronze. I have mounted this bronze plaque on another hefty slab of black granite. It will be mounted on a solid steel cutout of a Celtic cross that stands three feet high and is set in a bed of concrete. I have gone to great length and expense to make this entire structure from "eternal materials" in hopes that it will live as long as the Peace Oak already has. It is meant to convey the solidity and strength of our church, its members and obviously the tree. Leading from the edge of our front parking area will be a narrow stone path flanked by Lirope that leads out some 60 feet to a point underneath the canopy of the tree. It will end there, where nestled in a bed of Hosta and other shady plants this plaque will be mounted and a small bench will be at hand so that one can pause and get at one with themselves, the good Lord and the Peace Oak. Photos of the Peace Oak will soon be a featured on our church website, feel free to have a look at http://www.peacepresbyterian.org/.

Create a symbol of nature....plant a tree.

Friday, August 10, 2007

All right we've had a little dry spell with the blogging of late. Life is so busy right now and the good Lord has blessed us with 2 weeks of brutally hot weather and its about kicking this old goat's ass. We have a cool front moving thru today--high of only 90 degrees. This past week has been spent getting my church moved from its old location of 22 years to a brand new home being finished as we speak. We have a wedding scheduled for tomorrow and services on Sunday and there is still lots of work to be done. The floor in the fellowship hall is not finished and thats putting a kink in lots of things. AC is working most of the time, some lights didn't get wired, landscaping looks sick due to the heat and no rain........but the building is beautiful and inspiring and here to stay. It was so interesting to witness the installation of our huge four part stained glass window in the santuary.

This is a work of art, hand made by one of our deceased members and installed in the old church by some of the men in the congregation. It had become a symbol of ours and our entire new building was built around it being the focal point of the santuary. Those of us that had spent lots of time around the construction site as the church was being built were waiting for the moment that the window was finally installed. Its sits high in the front wall of the church and the workers were perched atop about 70 feet of scaffolding. The process took about an hour per section and as the last quadrant was finally fitted in place an instant change moved thru the air. It was clear that at that moment it ceased being a construction site and became a church. The aura that went through those of us standing there was spooky and left goose bumps on your skin. It was clear that the Big Guy was smiling down on us at the time.

Be sure to tune in soon for the story of the "Peace Presbyterian Oak".