In the 1950s, my grandfather planted pine trees on his farm. Farmers plant pine trees to put nitrogen back into the soil and help fields become more fertile.
Now, 70 plus years later, there is a forest of trees on his former farm that stands 100 feet tall. When I visited the farm a couple of years ago, I noticed brand-new baby trees at the edge of the forest. They were near a clearing where the sun could reach them.
My grandfather’s Alpine pines remind me of community and making space for new growth.
The forest of pines makes me think of my family because I have more than 40 cousins. One of the youngest members of the family is my daughter, Eilis, who is almost three years old. Like the pine trees, the generations in my family are changing, growing, and dying. My mom’s seven older brothers and one sister have passed. She and another sister are the only ones left of her generation.
New ideas, new participants
Like the pine trees, Women of the ELCA should create space for new ideas and new participants. But we should also appreciate the support and nourishment of our current community.
We must be intentional about supporting new growth.
In our families, we should have positive relationships with our relatives—even the ones we don’t get along with—because the younger generations are watching, learning, and repeating.
We must nurture relationships in our faith communities, as well. We seem perplexed when our congregation begins shrinking. And yet we have done little to engage visitors or the community outside the front door of the church building.
Many of us are planted in infertile soil–because of our families of origin or some other reason. Yet with a healthy community surrounding us, we become rich and sustainable. The trees my grandfather planted are still here, many years after he passed, and they continue to change, die, and make room for new growth.
Have you been intentional about creating and maintaining new growth in your women’s group? How do you include new people in your community?
Elizabeth McBride is the director for intergenerational programs and editor of Boldcafe.org, Women of the ELCA’s online magazine for and with young adult women and their friends.
Photos: The pines. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth McBride