Despite the rain and hail, a dozen of us spent yesterday morning working on the church gardens. Trees were pruned, beds dug over and replanted, the flower troughs at the front were planted up. And John stood under his golfing umbrella and cooked burgers and sausages on the BBQ to feed the workers. We hope that the beautiful outside appearance of our premises will help attract people to come inside
Last week we drove along the B3082 by the National Trust property Kingston Lacy, through the amazing Beech Avenue, planted by the owner William Bankes around 1835. It was a birthday gift for his mother Frances, with 365 trees one side of the road, and 366 the other. People mocked him - she would never live to see the trees reach full maturity, and it was doubtful if he would either [he didn't - poor chap was exiled to France for conduct unbecoming, and never saw KL again] But he planted this wonderful avenue anyway, and 180 years later we can enjoy their beauty.
Whilst all this was happening down in Dorset, and Britain was still recovering from the Napoleonic Wars [particularly all the naval battles with Nelson and co] questions were being asked in Parliament about timber for building more ships. If it was necessary to import, they decided that Swedish timber was deemed particularly good. Over in Sweden, their navy was concerned about shipbuilding too. The Crown had sole rights over the use of oak trees, since the Middle Ages. In 1835 the Swedish Navy requested more trees to be planted. So 300,000 oak trees were planted on the island of Visingö.
But time moves on, and by the start of the twentieth century, iron and steel were the preferred material for shipbuilding. However, some people, like the Swedish Forestry Service, keep meticulous records [do the SFS have log books?] and in 1978 they actually wrote to the Navy and said "Your trees are now ready"
The workers who planted the trees all those years ago knew they would not be around to see the results of their labours - but they did it for their King and Country. In these days when we so often want immediate results, fast food, quick credit and instagram pictures, it is good to remember that some things take time and effort to grow to full maturity. That includes family relationships, communities, church fellowships. We need to plant in faith, believing that one day somebody will see the fruits of our labours.
Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians Chapter 3 [J B Phillips translation]
I may have done the planting and Apollos the watering, but it was God who made the seed grow! The planter and the waterer are nothing compared with Him who gives life to the seed.