When describing St. Paul’s Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), many people say something along the lines of “We are near Rex Hospital along Blue Ridge Road… where the oak tree is.” This oak tree is definitely a land marker recognized by many if not most Raleigh, NC natives. It’s branches have shaded many a picnic, Vacation Bible School, and Journey Through Bethlehem. A single grave stone at the base of the tree has served as the focus of many “lock-in” ghost stories and “base” for tag games during youth group. Families have celebrated weddings with first dances in its shade, and they have embraced and comforted one another as they mourned the loss of a loved one. This tree has weathered hurricanes and ice storms, always sheltering those beneath it.
As the congregation at St. Paul’s Christian Church has grown and changed over time, this tree has continued to stand strong. As I walked underneath it’s branches this past Sunday morning, heading into the sanctuary for worship with this congregation that raised me for the first 13 years of my life, I couldn’t help but think that this tree not only symbolized my own roots at this church but the roots of hundreds before me and hopefully thousands after.
St. Paul’s has indeed changed since I was one of the young children playing tag under this tree’s branches, since I sought it’s embrace as I sat underneath it following the funeral for one of our own youth members. The young children that I started my baby-sitting career with have just graduated from high school, teachers that encouraged me to ask questions about God have retired from teaching and new faces fill those classrooms. In addition to the families that have joined in the last fifteen years, church buildings now house three other congregations who are finding their own roots beneath this tree.
As a child, it was just a tree. Today, this oak tree symbolizes a remarkable story. As I looked up among its many branches on Sunday, I was reminded that no matter where we go in life we can find our roots with God. The one who has weathered every storm with us and celebrated every success and milestone with us, the one who will stand firm under the weight of our sorrows. God, the one who was here before and the one who will remain after. The one who we seek to be known through, “You know, that person who is so kind to everyone and really shows God’s grace!”
On Sunday, I was honored and privileged to fill the pulpit that I have heard so many transformational sermons from. I was able to spend time with these people who helped to raise me, and share about the school that took their lessons in my life to another level. I was able to return to my roots at the oak tree, and see how those same roots are nourishing so many others and helping them to grow just as they helped me.
As the Church ebbs and flows with the changes in our world, where can we find our roots? What in your life serves as a reminder that God is there, whether you realize it or not?
Rev. Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer