The image of a Serbian Orthodox church inside an oak tree at @hubytheordinary got us thinking about trees being used as churches. It’s a common thing, we discovered, especially among the Eastern Orthodox; we found a trove of images of adhoc arboreal sanctuaries. THAT is a kind of church we would love to experience.

A religious shrine is built inside this 450-year-old oak at Kutaisi Botanical Garden, Georgia. Photo Boyce Tankersley

We also found a church made of living trees in New Zealand. It was built by Barry Cox to be a means by which he could retreat from society. So many people responded to it that he decided to open The Tree Church and the surrounding gardens to the public.

(We recommend watching with the sound off.)

They all got us thinking about the qualities of trees that make them a place for sanctuary, reflection, rest, prayer. We found the answer in Jo Shapcott‘s poem “I Go Inside the Tree”. (Her reading of it is beautiful)…

Indoors for this ash
is through the bark:
notice its colour – asphalt
or slate in the rain

then go inside, tasting
weather in the tree rings,
scoffing years of drought and storm,
moving as fast as a woodworm

who finds a kick of speed
for burrowing into the core,
for mouthing pith and sap,
until the o my god at the heart.

Why not just view trees as churches? (No need to build one into it, or from it.)

Sally Schneider

….And then a reader wrote to ask:

Church as forest?

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