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Oh, Shoot!

By Linda Fippin, President of the Board of Trustees

No, that is not a euphemism for an expletive. Quite the opposite! If you’ve been reading my blog posts, you will know that I love a metaphor, and here comes another one.

As you may remember, Westside hosted a tree distribution and planting event in March. At that time, I couldn’t imagine that I could use another tree in my already “into the woods” yard. After all of the trees had been distributed and sent off to new homes, Jerry Thornton mentioned that there were a few that were unclaimed, including some willow oaks. If you are not familiar with willow oaks, they get their name from their slender, pointed leaves that look similar to those of willows. They grow to over 60 feet tall with impressively thick trunks and a rounded appearance when mature. As it happened, when I bought my house, there was a young willow oak in a sunny spot just on the west side. It was a lovely tree, but it grew rapidly, as willow oaks do, and before long, its branches were scraping the house walls and windows. There were only two options: trim the entire near side of the tree back dramatically, which seemed ridiculous, might not work or might kill the tree anyway, or remove it. It had to go and I was sad, but I put the thought of it aside as we do when we have to do something unwanted but necessary.

A Willow Oak tree
A Willow Oak. (Source: Wikipedia)

When Jerry mentioned the “orphan” trees, which were then sitting out in the back of the church near the air conditioning units, I thought about it and recalled that I had a sunny spot in my yard where a failed ornamental grass bed had been. It was nowhere near the house and would be a good site for a willow oak, so I brought one of the little trees home and planted it and watched for signs of life. And watched, and watched and watched some more. It didn’t seem dead, exactly. It turned greenish when I watered it and the nascent limbs seemed pliant, but the bumps where I expected to see leaves emerge just sat there. Almost two months passed until one evening when I went to water it, which I hadn’t been doing as often because of all the rain we’ve been having, and there just above where the little tree was emerging from the ground was a tiny green shoot no bigger than my little fingernail. Within a couple of days, it was three or four inches tall and a couple of days later, it was sprouting intensely green pointed leaves.

And this is where the metaphor comes in. Over the past couple of years there have been multiple meetings and services about how churches of all types and denominations have been declining and how Westside could avoid such a fate. During this time, the Board and Reverend Carol and the Stewardship Committee and our Membership Coordinator have been working hard to find ways to ensure the health and vitality of Westside. We’ve started new kinds of services. The leaders and teams of new and rejuvenated committees have been working to come up with projects and activities that engage the congregation and reach out into our community. We’ve found ways in which we can more actively engage with and support community service organizations

When this process began, Westside was a bit like my little oak tree. It wasn’t dead, but more akin to dormant, just waiting for the right kind of care to awake. And over the past few months, it has been like that little smudge of green that became a shoot and then sprouted leaves. Church attendance has been growing, new people have become members and we’ve had the most successful pledge canvass in recent memory. I’ve definitely been feeling new energy on Sunday mornings. Maybe you have, too! And as we move into the new fiscal year at the end of June, the funds raised in the canvass will support our “visionary budget,” which will enable us to continue to produce more shoots and leaves. (I will stop now before I push the metaphor too far into acorns and might oaks territory!)

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