A tree to remember
Belle Vue Baptist Church in Southend-on-Sea has created a new art installation to help mark, celebrate and wonder at life throughout November. Andy Goodliff explains more
Earlier this year I was at a day thinking about culture, part of the new HeartEdge hub based at Shoeburyness and Thorpe Bay Baptist Church. (For more on HeartEdge see heartedge.org and this piece in The Baptist Times.)
During the day Maggi Dawn, Jonathan Evens, Karen Case-Green and others were helping us think about the place of the arts in the church. Karen talked about how her church, Guildford Baptist, was involved in a memorial project for COVID. It was during the afternoon I dreamed up the possibility of creating a tree with hundreds of leaves on it for November time.
At the beginning of October I invited our Boys' Brigade company and members in the church to make paper leaves. I knew we’d need a lot if the tree was to have any kind of impact. I’ve not counted, but I think there is something like 300 on the tree. I thought I might have a busy half-term, but I didn’t need to make one single leaf because of the involvement of others. The tree itself had been designed and made ten years ago by a church member for something else we did, and is now finding another purpose.
The tree will stay in the Church Centre through the whole of November. This is a busy space with lots of people visiting for various activities the church or other groups run, and hopefully it might even be seen by those walking by the church on their the way to school, the shops, or the railway station.
This will hopefully be the first of an ongoing series of artistic pieces in this space that offer what Ann Morisy has called ‘apt liturgies’, appropriate to people of faith and of none, that will be designed to help mark, celebrate, wonder at life.
These words accompany the tree:
We are in the midst of Autumn, when trees lose their leaves, and so this tree is a way of remembering those we have lost, those who have died.
November begins with All Saints Day and All Souls Day — a time to remember the dead and give thanks to God for their lives.
In November we also mark Remembrance Sunday where we remember lives lost in war.
So this tree is a Remembering Tree, each leaf representing a life.
Accompanying our tree is an opportunity to write down the name of a person you want to remember and offer a prayer to God who remembers each one of us in life and in death.
This Tree might also be seen as a representation of the Tree of the Life, where in the Bible it says the leaves are for the healing of the nations (Rev 22.2).
Each leaf can be seen as a sign of the healing our world needs and in this month when the nations are meeting for the COP26 Climate Conference, this tree can be a prayer for the healing of all of creation.
And also this prayer:
you say, ‘I will not forget you, that our names are inscribed on the palm of your hands’ (Isaiah 49.16)
We name and remember those we have loved,
wh faith that they held in your memory for ever,
resting in peace to rise in glory.
In the name of the Risen One, Jesus,
Andy Goodliff is minister of Belle Vue Baptist Church, Southend-on-Sea