And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Revelations 22:2)
Not in my wildest dreams have I ever considered myself to be a pilgrim; yet, that is the mantle I embraced as I made my way (along with many others) to the Peace Woodland, Lichfield.
It was Easter Sunday the day when we commemorate Christ’s resurrection, celebrate new life and reflect on our hopes for peace; ideal for the blessing of the new Woodland, which is believed to be the first of its kind planted outside Jerusalem.
Marking the 1918 Centenary of the Armistice of the First World War the woodland is now dedicated to over 1,000 cherished people: living family members, friends and departed loved ones, including my recently deceased parents.
Having received an invitation to the blessing, we made our way firstly to the magnificent Cathedral where we participated in the wonderful Choral Eucharist for Easter Day; afterwards we congregated in The Close where the Dean gathered all in search of direction1 before leading us, together with Bishop Michael on our pilgrimage to the woodland.
In a lasting memorial to peace the maze-like woodland, created from 1,918 rescued saplings, has at its centre a Cedar of Lebanon tree representing the wood from which, it is believed, Christ’s Cross was made from; in front is the stunning, yet understated, six-foot bronze plaque bearing the names of those being remembered, commemorated and celebrated.
Once everyone had arrived there was a short service of prayers and the blessing of the woodland. For a few moments after a quiet and reflective silence prevailed – but not for long; with the appearance and sharing of chocolate eggs, merriment, laughter and mingling soon resumed!
It was a truly remarkable day.
Go into the woodland if you seek peace of mind-
As this time when Nature's mood is gentle, quiet and kind,
When soft winds fan the trembling leaves about the cloistered glade-
And paths go winding deep into the green and breathless shade …
… An unseen Presence walks the woods, a sense of holy things-
Haunts the dim Cathedral aisles; and every bird that sings-
Is like some morning chorister, and every breath of air-
Seems to bring the secret murmur of a whispered prayer.
(Woodland Cathedral, by Patience Strong)
- Choral Eucharist for Easter Day Service Book, Lichfield Cathedral, 21st April 2019