Members of Derry and Raphoe Mothers’ Union have taken part in a tree-planting ceremony in the grounds of St Eunan’s Cathedral, Raphoe, to mark the 130th anniversary of Mothers’ Union in Ireland.
The ceremony was preceded by a service in St Eunan’s Cathedral to ‘Commemorate 13 Decades of Love and Service’.
The Mothers’ Union is planting a tree in each of the twelve dioceses of the Church of Ireland and Raphoe was given the honour of receiving the tree on behalf of Derry and Raphoe. The local tree was planted by local MU stalwart, Marie Witherow, and her granddaughter Sarah Lindsay.
The service, beforehand, was led by the Dean of Raphoe, Very Rev Arthur Barrett, and the address was given by the Diocesan Chaplain to Mothers’ Union, Rev Canon Harold Given, who shared a quotation with those present: “A man who plants a tree plants a hope”.
Canon Given told the mostly female congregation that trees occupied an important place in the Bible. “You only have to look at the very first verses of Genesis, Chapter 1, to discover how important trees are,” he said. “Because of the fruit of a tree, sin came into the world.”
The chaplain said trees are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible, apart from in the Garden of Eden. ”Jesus saw Nathaniel under a tree, and Zacchaeus climbed up a tree to see Jesus, and both of those men tell us that God knows all about us. God knows us through and through; he accepts us through and through”.
Canon Given said when Jesus was crucified and hung upon a tree – the cross – he would have known the significance of that. “In Deuteronomy, Chapter 10, we read: ‘Cursed is every man who hangs upon a tree’. The Jews were forbidden from leaving a man hanging on a tree overnight because to be hung on a tree and to die on a tree was to be forgotten by God. And Jesus knew that, because he knew the scriptures.”
“Among the saddest words that Jesus ever uttered,” the chaplain said, “were those which came as he hung upon a tree, with his arms outstretched, when he cried, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ The fruit of a tree brought sin into our world and into our lives,” Canon Given suggested, “and the fruit of a tree and the blood of Jesus brings us cleansing for our sins.”
The service was also addressed by the Diocesan President of Mothers’ Union, Mary Good, who welcomed all those in attendance. Mrs Good thanked Dean Barrett for allowing the tree to be planted outside the Cathedral, and joked: “It’s up to you to keep it alive”.
After processing from the church, the Dean led a short service in the Cathedral grounds, during which he gave thanks for the 130 years of service and dedication given by Mothers’ Union in Ireland. “May this tree dig deep roots and grow wide branches to bear witness to Your abundant love and praise, made known through the work of Mothers’ Union around the world.”