Dancing with the Trinity

Old Growth Forests and People of God

Old Growth Forests and People of God

Council Meeting Devotions, August 15, 2017

By Linda Kinsinger

 

As we all know, Pr. Will is passionate about surfing and Pr. Mark is passionate about running. I thought I’d share my passion with you tonight and that’s hiking, especially in the Smokies. I love putting on my boots, grabbing a pack and my hiking poles, and heading out on a trail into the forest. For the past two summers, my husband and I have rented a house in Maggie Valley, on the NC side of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, for a month and have hiked nearly every day in the Park. We pour over trail maps and guide books and I keep a spreadsheet of all the trails and miles we’ve done. There’s something about hiking that I find to be both invigorating and meditative. The mountains are a place where I can usually get away from crowds and road noise and really enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. I sometimes just stop and try to absorb the surroundings – the trees, the birds, the flowers and ferns, the air, the whole feeling of the woods. It’s just a magical experience for me.

 

This summer, my husband picked up a book called Nature’s Temples, the Complex World of Old-Growth Forests. In reading it, I learned a lot about these special places that I didn’t know. I had always thought of old growth forests only in terms of trees: sections of land in which the trees hadn’t been cut for a long time. And that’s certainly true but they’re so much more than that. While the trees are indeed often quite old, they’re also more effective in doing their work of taking carbon out of the air and storing it in the ground because of their larger size. They support a greater number and richer diversity of birds, insects, amphibians (such as salamanders), and plants than do younger forests. A whole variety of insects, in particular, is essential for helping to maintain an environment that allows the trees and all the other flora and fauna to thrive. All the components of an old growth forest, from the largest trees to the smallest insects, have evolved over thousands of years to create a nurturing, balanced environment in which all of life in the forest is interconnected, dependent on each other to maintain conditions in which they can all succeed. After becoming more aware of all this, when I hike through one of the small number of old growth forest areas in the Smokies, I feel a sense of reverence for what nature has done and is continuing to do.

 

But what does all this have to do with our Church Council, our HTLC/LCM congregation, or the Church at large? I’d like to suggest that we try to think of ourselves as an old growth forest – an entity made up of many different components, all of which are integrated and essential to creating and maintaining a nurturing environment in which we all can thrive. We need each other, in all of our various roles, whether we’re the tallest trees or the smallest insects, to succeed in our shared vision of bringing God’s love and hope into the world. We are critically dependent on each other to make that happen – we can’t do it alone. As we begin a new year of Council activities, I pray that we grow and deepen our connections with each other, support each other, and work together to accomplish what God would have us do.