Friday, 13 September 2013
The Healer's Tree: for personal and group reflection on ecology, peace and justice
I was delighted that the Church Times recently wrote a lovely comment on my Greenbelt workshop, in which they mentioned 'The Healer's Tree: a Bible-based resource on ecology, peace and justice'. (You have to scroll way down to the Worship section!)
It's a book which takes a journey through 28 reflections, beginning with the ideal of the garden of Eden. Here is an extract from the introduction:
The Bible's account of Eden gives us something very precious: a spiritual earth in which to take root; a home. From this place we can grow and realise peaceful interconnectedness with all life, all humanity. It is a centring point against which we can check our experience of reality...
There is and always has been a miracle-place where we can walk with God, who calls us forever through the lattice in the wall we have erected, 'for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come ... arise my love, my fair one and come away (from Song of Songs 2:10-13)'
The whispered invitation rings like a bell through eternity; the Lover of All waits with longing for us to come back and walk again in the cool of the evening, where we were always meant to be.
urging me secretly to walk
in the garden's singing time with You?
Always so soft your voice,
how long have you been at my window,
and I did not know?
for it has seemed an eternity
since, loving as one,
we walked together
in the light of a new creation.
The subsequent chapters, which I illustrated with pen and ink drawings, include reflections on trees, stones and other aspects of nature which feature in the Bible and Celtic Christian tradition, from the Tree of Knowledge to the Scottish forests of Bedenoch, from the cedars of Lebanon to the Irish Hazels of Wisdom. There are stories of some of the Celtic saints - Kevin, Malangell, Aidan and Columbanus, and their interactions with the creatures and wild places of their environments. There are reflections on desert and mountain, forest and the wastelands of human destruction, the process of coming to terms with our own violence as well as our capacity to be peace-makers ... all part of the long journey home.
The Healer's Tree is, as the subtitle says, a resource for personal and group reflection, on themes of ecology, peace and justice - created with Lent and Advent groups, house groups and bible study sessions in mind, but also for quiet use at home or to take away on retreat.There are a number of lovely reviews on the internet, here's one by Nick Horton on the Good Book Stall,
As with many Wild Goose publications, the introductory material is an integral part of the book and only on reading that will the rest of the book reach its full impact.
Annie Heppenstall has written these 28 reflections in a ‘journey sequence’. Perhaps daily over a month – or during a season – Advent, Lent, the Creation Season I would suggest that they also provide a really constructive framework for (especially non-eucharistic) worship.
Her title comes from the Saxon poem The Dream of the Rood, in which the tree grows to become the Cross – the ‘gateway for people to come to Christ’s healing love’. From the Garden of Eden, through the Yggdrasil – the tree of life – to legends associated with a number of Celtic saints and finally to the riverbank – coming home – each section begins from a verse or two of Scripture, opening out into a meditation/reflection, some suggestions for further reflection then lead us into a closing thought – again scriptural – and a final sentence.
Personal favourites are ‘All that breathes, praise the Lord’ focussing on Caedmon of Whitby, called by some the first poet of the English language, and ‘St Kevin and God’s mercy’, bringing back very happy memories of a visit to Glendalough in the mid-1990s. But one of the most moving relates to Elijah in the desert and his experiences of awesome natural forces – earthquake, wind and fire – before the breathtaking silence of God’s presence.
Annie Heppenstall’s glorious pen and ink drawings not only beautify the book but also complement and enhance the text. This is a book that you will come back to repeatedly and each time find a new pearl upon which to ponder.
I cannot recommend it too highly.