Faith Development

The Faith Development Team provides and supports Adult Christian Education at Cambridge United. Currently we are bringing before the congregation the realities of Climate Change and asking how our Christian Faith might influence the ways we care for this planet that we are so privileged to inhabit, including reducing carbon footprint and greenhouse gasses.

We call our current theme “Faith, Forests, and Care of the Planet.”

You may wish to read the four short articles about trees posted here.  They were written by Carl Kimmett, a member of our Team.

After a presentation by Carl in the April 25th worship service, followed by a Dialogue sermon on “The Theology of Trees,” we now turn our attention to “My Special Tree.” Many people have a favourite or special tree.  It may be growing in your back yard, along a familiar path, or in a forest. The tree may no longer actually exist, but you remember it from years gone by.

We now invite you to tell us about your tree, why it is special to you, some occasion you remember, or maybe how you helped it grow or what it did (or continues to do) for you. Please write just 200 words maximum (unless you really need a few more); attach a photograph or drawing if you wish.  Remember to include your name. .  This opportunity is open to everyone, no matter how young or old you may be!

Then …  just email your My Special Tree story to Jim Phelps at (Jim is the Leader of the Faith Development Team.)  He will have our Webmaster post it here.  Then you will be sharing your special tree with others and can read about everyone else’s special tree

What Does A Tree Do?

Read this article about the life of trees  by Carl Kimmet

Why Reforestation?

The second part of the series – by Carl Kimmet

Some Thoughts On Forest History

The third part of the series – by Carl Kimmet

How Do We Feel About Trees?

The fourth part of the series – by Carl Kimmet

My Favourite Tree

Mert Davis

I grew up on an original United Empire Loyalist (UEL) farm in Adolphustown. There was a very large gnarled tree out behind the house which we called the “Bam-Ba Gilia” tree. My brother Bobby and I climbed that old tree that soared to over 80 feet. It had “tree memories” dating back to near United Empire Loyalist days. Bobby, my older brother and a dare-devil, would shinny out onto a limb that would sag under his weight and bend near the ground. Then he would jump. I was too timid but it was our tree. We could even see the shining waters of the Bay of Quinte from up high on the tree.

In 1976 I chaperoned Victoria County Science Fair winners out to the Canada Wide Science Fair in Brandon, Manitoba. While there we went on a field-trip to Riding Mountain National Park. The guide, a ranger, stopped us under a giant tree and smugly asked, “What kind of tree is this?” There was silence and shrugs. I looked up, and there it was:  “my tree,“ from Adolphustown.

Shaking off my childish nomenclature, I said firmly, “It’s a Balm of Gilead! “ The astonished guide said, “Correct.“ He most likely had asked that question to many groups before. Everyone clapped, but really it was just my childhood tree from years ago in Adolphustown.

Ian and Nolan Carlson (cousins)

Ian and Nolan Carlson (cousins) chose apple trees as they love to go picking apples in the Fall with their families. They especially like eating apples while they are picking them. They like their Nana to bake apple cake and make apple sauce.

Their parents always enjoyed this apple cake when they went to Scout camp. It’s become a generational family recipe from our friend and Scout Leader, Tom Ashizawa.

Scouter Tom’s Apple Cake Recipe

  • 2 1\4 cups of sugar
  • 3 eggs (well beaten)
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 1 tsp. of baking soda
  • 3 cups of fresh diced apples
  • 1 cup of salad oil
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp. of vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients together and bake in a well greased 9 x 15 inch pan for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Keeps 3 weeks without refrigeration.

Submitted by Patty Carlson (Nana)

By Ian

By Nolan

Patty Carlson

My favourite tree is the native White Birch (Betula papyrifera). As a child growing up on Montreal’s South Shore, I remember hiking in the woods filled with stands of beautiful tall White Birch trees. Later in Muskoka they dotted the bush growing in clusters surrounded by the tall White Pines.

The White Birch is an all season tree. I often use the cut branches in winter outdoor pots filled with greenery. I also look forward in the spring to seeing the catkins bloom before the leaves unfold into their summertime greenery. The yellow leaves in autumn create a beautiful carpet underneath the bare white branches and trunk.

As a child I loved to find the wind-blown strips of white paper to write secret messages on. The White Birch has made a lifetime of many sweet memories for me.

Dave and Judy Warren

Methuselah is an old friend.  He has been for over 60 years. This old White Pine is part of a Kawartha woods off a cottage road about ½ an hour walk from our present cottage.  His trunk is enormous, it would take 5 adults to give him a group hug.  He was visited by us in our courting days and has endured our children and grandchildren climbing on his many great branches.

We gave him his biblical name because we think he is so very old and of course very wise.  Methuselah has seen better days.  He looks good as you approach, but as you get close and circle him, he shows signs of the wear and tear of time.

Each visit, we think of more questions to ask him.  Did indigenous people rest in the shade of his branches as they journeyed by?  When did the first motorized automobile pass by on this cottage road?  Was he a tiny sapling when Samuel Champlain passed on our “Shadow Lake” on his explorations?  Does he sense us when we visit?  If only he could share!

At this stage in life, we are getting to be just like Methuselah.  We have a few current challenges or are feeling the effects of the wear and tear of time, and we have many great memories to share.

Our Methuselah is a wonder to visit!

With Grateful Hearts,  Dave and Judy Warren


Jean Robinson

My favorite tree has not lived very long. In fact, it is less than 12 months old. The town of Lindsay planted a tree in front of my house. It never did very well. Last year I called the town to let them know and they removed it and said they would plant another in the fall.

They did do this, and I impatiently waited for it to show signs of life this spring. A few weeks ago, it finally did. I watched for the little leaves and signs of new beginnings and now, each branch has life in it.

After hearing Paul Reed talk about the importance of our trees, I am very, happy to look at this one and think that I played a part, however small, in sustaining our world. Life has a way of creating itself and it has been beautiful to watch it unfold. This year, when I was faced firsthand with the fragility of life and the death of my husband Frank, witnessing the tree in front of me grow and develop, especially when I thought it might not survive, has been a beautiful gift of which I am enormously grateful.

Sharon Phelps

My favourite tree is an orphan no longer, but I will tell you the story anyway.

When we first moved to our present Lindsay house, I set to cleaning out the basement window wells. Amongst dried up leaves and tattered papers, a small bent sapling struggled though, likely having sprouted from the many maple keys piled up there. Into the leaf bag went the pile of debris, but what should I do with the little tree in my hand. There was really no place for another tree in the back yard but somehow I could not throw away such a brave little maple. How long had it grown in the window well, stretching up and seeking the light?

So to avoid guilt, I stuck it in the lawn near the deck, gave it a watering and put some stakes around it for protection from the lawn mower. Over the summer, I gave it half-hearted care not expecting it to survive once the dry days of August and September came… but it did and it even produced one coloured leaf in the fall.

I fully expected the rabbits would clip the little tree over the winter or it would be killed off by the cold, but in the spring there it was all budded and waiting to leaf out.  So another summer passed….and another fall……. and another winter. ……and surprisingly, once again come spring, the orphan tree leafed out and grew up towards the sun.

This cycle repeated for several years until one spring I stepped out on the back deck and realized the orphan tree was well established in the yard and surprisingly tall. It had grown up right under my nose. It was time to take stock of the situation.

There were many drawbacks…. It was too close to the house…. It had a huge crop of leaves each fall which filled up the eaves troughs and blew down the street littering neighbours’ yards…… it was still a little lope sided and bent in towards the roof….. it was too big to transplant.

But there were lots of pluses too. The chickadees, juncos, finches, jays and even the arrogant cardinal couple perched in the branches and swooped in to snack on seeds in the bird feeder. The orphan tree gave wonderful cooling shade on hot summer days and produced showy coloured leaves in the fall.

Slowly I realized this tree was no longer an orphan but a full and valued member of our backyard family.

Our tree is now about 25 feet tall and budding out again this spring. I shiver to think that I might have relegated that little sapling to the leaf bag.  What a loss that would have been!

The Orphan Tree

Elaine Kell

The Oaks of Vimy Ridge

Elaine Kell called me (Jim Phelps) to say that while thinking about special trees she remembered a particular meditation she had prepared for her UCW group. It included the story of the Oak trees of Vimy Ridge. Here is a short version of the story.

During four days of intense fighting immediately following Easter Day in 1917, the Canadian Army Core re-took Vimy Ridge in France.  Victory was won at the cost of nearly 11,000 casualties, 3,600 of them fatal. A few days later, from the vantage point of the tower of an abandoned abbey, Lt. Leslie Miller of Scarborough surveyed the battlefield, which he described in his diary as “by far the worst sight I have ever seen.”

Being a rural person, Leslie had previously noticed the oak trees on the ridge, so in a thoughtful moment he gathered a handful of acorns from under a shattered oak.  He mailed these to his parents, asking that they plant them on the family farm back in Scarborough.

Fast forward to a summer day in the early 50’s. Leslie and his wife Essie were living on the farm and their sign at the road read “Vimy Oaks.”  Intrigued by the sign, World War II veteran Sandy McDonald and his young son Monty drove into the farm. The families became close friends and Monty his Dad often visited and helped out at the farm. Now leap forward to 2004.  Monty, by then married with children, went to Europe to re-trace his father’s WW II experience. While there he visited Vimy Ridge and noticed there were no oak trees in sight.

Fast forward ten more years. Monty had an idea. He returned to the site of the Miller farm, by then the property of a Canadian Chinese Baptist Church. The congregation gave him and his family permission to gather hundreds of acorns under the now-towering oaks. He contracted with a French company to germinate the acorns, then worked with the Vimy Foundation which had purchased 4 acres of land within sight of the Canadian World War I Memorial on the Ridge. The result: one hundred of the little oak trees were planted on the new property in time for the 2018 Centennial ceremonies marking the end of “The Great War.”

There is much more to this inspiring story, including artwork, a book, and the fact that trees from Vimy acorns have been planted at cenotaphs and memorials across Canada. One good place to begin learning more is the Toronto Star web site:

Freda McWilliams

“Never Shift a Fairy Tree”

Freda McWilliams recently phoned me (Jim Phelps) to chat about the intriguing Fairy (or Faery) Trees of Ireland.  They were first rooted in ancient Emerald Island religion and culture as belonging to the unseen “wee folk” whose magic is still said to have power to bring fortune or misfortune to humans.

Although Ireland is deeply Catholic (but not exclusively so), belief – or shall we call it superstition? – in mysterious fairies and their activities persists. Fairy trees are also good for tourism, providing tour guides with opportunity for yet another photo op and fascinating educational conversation.

Most fairy trees are bushy hawthorns and some are ash trees. They usually stand alone beside a road or in a field. You may find them adorned with small, colourful items that visitors have left behind.  It is said that fairies gather at these special trees to plot their next schemes. And, as they wish to be known only as “wee folk,” it is important not to speak aloud the word “fairy” when in proximity to one of their trees.

Freda is familiar with the story of one particular fairy tree along the M18 motorway in County Clare, between Limerick and Galway. When surveys were done to install a major bypass around a town, indicated that the resident fairy tree was in the way and had to go.  Local resistance to removing the tree gained support from respected folklorist Eddie Lenihan, who warned that such action could result in serious misfortune for years to come. After about 10 years of stalemate, engineers devised a new motorway bypass design that allowed the beloved (and feared) fairy tree to remain in place and visible to motorists.

As Mr. Lenihan advised, “Never shift a fairy bush.”

Now, a couple of questions for you, Gentle Reader:  What do such cultural phenomena as belief in (or respect for) the Fairy Tree contribute to a society?  And, are you aware of similar experiences in Canadian culture in which ancient beliefs and practices continue alongside current mainstream religious tenants and practice?  Please discuss and let us know!

A Fairy Tree (photo by Jim Phelps in 2014)