DEATH OF THE GOSPEL OAK
Ickenham’s Gospel Oak has died. As I prepared to write this month’s article, the news arrived that the big oak tree was suffering from a range of pathogenic fungi. The tree, around 150 years old, was leaning, shedding its bark and twigs, had weakened roots and was a potential danger to buildings and vehicles. Officers of Hillingdon Borough took specialist advice and decided that the tree had to be removed completely.
This has happened sadly so soon after the refurbishment of the Gospel Oak site, with a new plaque, dedicated in a ceremony with the Mayor and civic guests at the end of Ickenham Festival Week in 2008. The original Gospel Oak was felled at the beginning of this century, when it too was dying. Since then, two young trees have been planted, but did not survive. It is hoped that complete removal of this tree and the disease will eventually allow a new sapling to thrive on the site.
Easter celebrates life arising from the place of death. Jesus, crucified, bearing the weight of the sinfulness of humanity, and buried in a tomb, was raised to life! That is the basis of Christian faith. Easter eggs represent new life. Acorns could be regarded as similar symbols.
The tradition of the Gospel Oak is vividly described in chapter 9 of “Merrily to Swakeleys” by local author Robert Pearson, published by Trafford in 2008. The story is set in the mid-1660s. People gathered round the tree one day in July each year, to pray for God’s blessing on the forthcoming harvest. It was a festive day, with ‘food, drink and footeballe.’ The reason for the prayers and celebration was the recognition of our dependence on God for life, growth and food.
FROM THE URC MINISTER
Jesus’ rising to life promises more than food in this life. It assures us that death is not the end, that there is life with God in eternity. Easter is not just a celebration of springtime renewal and birth. It is the declaration of a different kind of life after death.
Paul addresses this difference in one of his New Testament letters: “When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else [e.g. an acorn]. But God gives it a body as he has determined…. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory, it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15: 37-38, 42-44, New International Version).
We look forward to the growth of a new Gospel Oak. We can look forward even more to resurrection life. Let us celebrate Christ’s offer of life in him and enjoy it. Happy Easter!
MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR THE BEREAVED
There will be a special Memorial service at St Giles’ Church on Sunday 8th May at 3pm for those who are bereaved. The names of the departed, whose funerals were conducted at Ickenham URC or by St Giles’ Church staff between the beginning of April 2010 and the end of February 2011 will be read out during the service.
The Revd Fran Caldecourt from St. Joseph the Worker, Northolt will give a short talk and members of the Bereavement Support Group will be present. After the service, the congregation will be invited to have refreshments in St Giles’ Church Hall.
Anyone who would find this service helpful is welcome to attend.
DROP-IN FOR THE BEREAVED. Third Monday of each month. St Giles’ Church Hall, 2pm to 3.30pm. A friendly, informal opportunity for a chat, over a cup of tea, with other bereaved people and bereavement visitors. The next meeting is on Monday 18th April (then Monday 16th May). Just come along, or ring the Rectory (622970) to talk to someone first.