Trees and rivers have been in our minds right from the beginning of the Pilgrimage on Friday - but never more so that during this final day.
Trees featured prominently, with reflections on the trees of Mamre in the Abraham story and on the Galatians reference to the one who died upon the tree, and then an introduction to preaching trees in the American black tradition as well as in our own dissenting history.
|The Usway Valley|
|First sight of the Trees across the valley|
It has to be said that the glory of Barrow Burn farm is its tea room - though to a point that is a statement of faith, as the tea room proved too small to contain twenty of so walkers, so we were happily confined to the tables outside while tea and cake were brought out (Thanks again, John!). A few other intrepid travellers, mainly from Rothbury URC, joined us at this point, and together we made our way on the last few hundred yards of the pilgrimage up the slope to the two trees - or rather, now three trees.
Our synod website already tells the story of the planting of the third tree earlier this year: the goal of our Pilgrimage was to be the dedication of this new growth to mark the next stage of the Story of Dissent that began 350 years ago. Even if the records are sparse, it is more than credible that our forebears really did gather in this remote spot, in order to hear the Word and praise God together with a measure of security in what had become a very unsafe world for them.
For us today, the main threat came from the weather - the thunder was rumbling further up the valley as we enjoyed our tea, and by the time we reached the trees rain was beginning to fall. But it was not sufficient to dampen our enthusiasm. We sang heartily, listened to more scripture and reflection on trees and rivers, and rejoiced as John Cox, who had planted the tree earlier in the year and cared for it and watered it over its first months (since when it has grown at least a foot) unveiled the plaque marking its significance. And as if the rain was not doing enough, we were all invited to help water the tree, each taking the opportunity to remember in prayer those whom we would long to see blessed by an outpouring of God's Holy Spirit.
And if there was time (and surely there always is) for an extra prayer, it would have to be of thankfulness for all those who organised this year's Pilgrimage, and for success as they meet together to organise next year's. They've already promised that there will be a next year's - so just watch this space!