First Unitarian Church of Worcester

Sermons, Memos and other writings from the newsletter and worship services of the First Unitarian Church of Worcester. The First Unitarian Church is located at 90 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01608. Our phone is 508-757-2708 and our webpage is A audio CD is produced for almost every one of our regular services. Call our office or send a note to the office at our website to request that one be shipped to you.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

"Trees" -- Reflection by Nancy Landers

On July 30th, members of the Environmental Committee of the First Unitarian Church conducted the worship service, outside in the Memorial Garden.

A highlight of the service was a Flower Communion.

Nancy Landers, a member of the church, offered the following reflection.


My name is Nancy Landers, - and you might say I’m a “tree-hugger”, although you would never see me climb a tree and camp out there in order to prevent some developer from cutting down the tree. Though perhaps in my younger days I might have.

When I was growing up in a small town in Maine, our back yard was shaded by 2 huge elm trees, in which, if you were lying in the hammock, you could watch the orioles building their bag-like nest, or see mother robins teaching their young to fly.

Along the main street of the town there were elm trees growing on both sides of the street, and their branches met overhead forming a long green tunnel. The elms are gone now, victims of the wide- spread Dutch Elm disease, leaving the street looking kind of ordinary, without any shade to speak of. And the air more polluted with more cars- fewer trees.

In the years hence, I have learned that trees provide many more benefits to mankind, more than just shade - and a home for birds. Trees breathe through their leaves, removing pollutants and CO2 from the air, the very CO2 that we hear so much about nowadays, the CO2 which creates the greenhouse effect, and causes global warming.

Tree leaves absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, combine it with water through photosynthesis, and utilize the carbon to make carbohydrates which feed the whole tree- leaves, branches, trunk and roots. The O2 is then released back into the atmosphere, adding to our planets’ layer of life-giving Oxygen without which humans, plants, and animals could not survive.

To me, this seems like such an ingenious process. I LIKE to believe that it is part of a very intricate design, planned and constructed on Planet Earth by our Creator, so that all living things may have the possibility of a full and rich existence.

Trees benefit the inhabitants of Earth in many other ways- their roots stabilize the soil, their leaves filter particulates from the air and add moisture , trees provide cooling in summer and act as windbreaks in winter. And who hasn’t gained a refreshing sense of peace and tranquility when walking in woods, or driving along a wooded road!

As a well-known author and nature writer, Wallace Stegner wrote, and I quote “Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books, or if we pollute the last clean air, and dirty the last clean streams, and push our roads through the last of the silence”. Unquote.

There is something sad about the clearing of old orchards by developers, in order to build more houses, and then by necessity, building more stretches of paved road to get to them.

But we as Unitarians do not wail and moan, and sit on our hands. God gave Man intelligence to figure things out , and to take measures to correct problems. We study the problems, and then we do what we can to rectify the situation; and in acting in a responsible way, we encourage our friends and neighbors to do the same.

Most of us are already recyclers, and many of us drive less and walk more, or ride bikes when we can. We use clean energy when it’s available to us, and some of us are thinking about buying hybrid cars or converting to “grease cars “thus reducing our impact on the environment. If my comments on trees have struck a nerve in your psyche, here is an action you can take to increase the number of trees in your yard and on your streets.

The National Arbor Day Foundation will send you 10 FREE tree seedlings of your choice, with instructions for planting, just for joining their organization. The membership fee is just $10.

Each tree you plant will eventually be able to provide enough daily oxygen for a family of 4, help remove the car exhaust from your immediate surroundings, and even lessen the effects of global climate change. To learn more, just click on National Arbor Day .org. It’s all there. And late summer or early fall are good times to plant trees. It’s also a time when local nurseries may be having sales, if you prefer to buy locally.

So think about making additions to your forest primeval.

Learning to identify the different tree species would be a fun activity for your whole family, thereby instilling in your kids and grandkids a love and respect for trees. Forget the video games and TV reality shows! For true reality, get yourselves copies of this little Tree guide by May Watts. One for identifying trees in Summer, and one for identifying both deciduous and evergreen trees in Winter. The guides are written like a game with clues to look for, and references to take you right to the page for the correct ID.

Recently I learned of some exciting new research involving trees which has the potential to reduce our reliance on foreign oil!

Cornell Univ. and SUNY are collaborating on this research; and their scientists have developed a method of producing an alternative fuel for cars and trucks. From which trees? You’ll never guess – willow trees! They are working on a form of willow ethanol which is much more energy efficient than corn ethanol!

Current estimates peg corn-ethanol efficiency as 1.7 units of energy output for every one unit input. Estimates for willow tree ethanol claim ratios of about 12 units of energy to one unit of input! A big improvement!

The entire willow tree product can be utilized- (as opposed to just the kernels - of corn). Willow trees are a low maintenance crop and are harvested 6 or7 times before replanting, and the leftovers from this distilling process can be used to make quality paper. Just growing the willow trees gives the same benefits as other trees, as well as providing jobs for farmers.

So here is one more benefit that trees may provide for us. Just another instance where Man is using his intelligence to try to solve the problems of our planet.

Let me leave you with this lovely poem, one we learned in 4th grade, in my one room schoolhouse in Maine, one which I have loved ever since.


(you knew I would work this in somewhere !)

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree,

A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed

Against the Earth’s sweet flowing breast.

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair.

A tree who looks at God all day

And lifts her leafy arms to pray.

Upon whose bosom snow has lain,

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

That was by Joyce Kilmer.

Thank you. Now- all of you, go out and hug a tree!


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