Monday, 16 May 2022

Prayer tree reminds us of spiritual need

VISITING the small Cornish village of Cadgwith Cove this summer, where the fishing boats daily land

VISITING the small Cornish village of Cadgwith Cove this summer, where the fishing boats daily land their catches of crab and lobster, I found its tiny church, dedicated to St Mary, hidden up a hill behind the pebbly beach.

Built in Norwegian style, the interior was plain with simple benches and only basic furnishings.

But in one corner, placed in a container, was a large tree branch and from every part of it, even the smallest twig, hung innumerable scraps of paper, each with a few words written on it.

Every message was a heartfelt plea from someone expressing the deepest fears, with which we can all identify.

Some were clearly linked to the dangerous work of fishermen, such as “God please bring them home safely” and “protect our life boat crew”.

Others were very personal, such as “My nan is in hospital with cancer, help the doctors make her well again” and “please keep my children safe from harm”.

The prayers on the tree, expressed so poignantly, crystallised for me the belief that the human desire to protect those we love is universal.

Yet we expend huge amounts of energy looking for differences, constructing artificial divisions between nations, races, religious faiths and sexualities.

Too often we judge by external factors, such as physical appearance or culture, yet ignore how much we have in common as human beings.

Jesus taught that our shared humanity should make us respond with concern to those in need, whoever and wherever they may be.

None of us can avoid pain in our own lives: anxiety for those whom we love, loss of health, rejection, bereavement. There are so many kinds of suffering throughout the world.

Thinking of the recent terrible earthquake in Italy, the appalling treatment of refugees, hostages and vulnerable minorities, we feel helpless and sometimes all we can do is to pray.

The prayer tree reminds us that we all have an inner “God-shaped space” of spiritual need and that through prayer to God we will find comfort and support.

When you are feeling overwhelmed by distress, remember Christ’s teaching, given to us more than 2,000 years ago but just as relevant today: “Come to me, all you who are troubled and weighted down with care, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11, v.28).

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