The Old Bur Oak

I heard a news story a couple of years about an old Bur Oak tree on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor (above). The oak dates to at least 1764, 73 years before the university moved from Detroit to Ann Arbor.

However, the 65-foot tall oak stood in front of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, which was slated to be expanded. The tree would have to be cut down or relocated. The estimated cost of $400,000 to move it seemed to doom the tree until students and community members started a campaign to raise the funds. With the help of a large donations, the goal was reached.

In order to move the tree, its 44-foot diameter root ball was wrapped in plastic and burlap, then rested on long metal pipes. Workers next inserted and inflated giant air bladders to lift the 700,000-pound package of tree and earth. Two transporters were then inserted to carry the tree, at a pace of about 1 mph, 500 feet down the street to its new home. There it could live, easily, for another 250 years or so!

I thought about that old oak tree as we move into 2018, which will be the 295th anniversary year of this congregation. Like the tree, the world around us has changed dramatically in the almost 300 years of our existence. From our founding in a sparsely-populated area of Dutch farmers, we now live in a densely-populated metropolitan area within an easy drive of New York City. Likewise, the neighborhood around us has developed and changed greatly over the years.

There are, I believe, two different ways for the church to view these changes. One way is to lament the way the world has transformed, to “circle the wagons,” and to focus on survival by focusing inward. The other way is to see the changes as both a challenge and an opportunity, trusting the God’s Spirit is still at work in this world.

At our Annual Meeting in January, we shared the report and stories of the ongoing ministry of South Church. I was pleased with energy and enthusiasm that the congregation has exhibited over the past year as we explored the “New Beginnings” discernment process. I would ask for your continued prayers and support as we move together into God’s future.

Finally, a reminder that the season of Lent begins this month on Ash Wednesday, February 14. We will be worshipping that evening at 7:30 pm with our friends at Clinton Avenue Reformed Church. We will also begin our Lenten Soup Supper on Monday, February 19—see details on the front of this newsletter.

Grace & peace, Mark