National Tree Day Sunday – last Sunday in July

Arbor Day is celebrated in many countries around the world, but mostly organized on different dates. The first known Arbor Day was celebrated in 1594 in Spain. In the USA it’s celebrated on April 27th. In Australia it’s on June 20. Jewish people observe Tu B’Shevat (Tu Bishvat), on the 15th day of the Jewish months of Shevat. This festival is also known as the “New Year for Trees”.

The very first Arbor Day is Australia was observed in 1889. The proposal for observation of this day was made by several South Australians, who were concerned about the environmental situation of the continent. The activity of white settlement had led to the rapid loss of vegetation across South Australia, and that is why an appropriate environmental event was demanded. The proposal was backed by parliamentarians and soon Arbor Day was established.
The inaugural event included a parade and after it the officials planted trees. For instance, then-governor Lord Kintore and his wife planted a bunya pine and a weeping Scotch elm. These trees still grow today. Pupils also planted a number of trees in designated areas.
Protection of the environment is a great issue in Australia, that is why a number of Tree Days are observed by Australians. For instance, every state has its own Arbor Day and Arbor Week is observed in Victoria. Moreover, National Tree Day and School Tree Day are also observed by Australians.
National Tree Day, was co-founded in 1996 by Planet Ark and Olivia Newton-John. It has now grown in to Australia’s largest community tree planting and nature protection event. 

National Schools Tree Day is held on the last Friday of July for schools
National Tree Day the last Sunday in July throughout Australia. This year, it’s 30th July 2023.

In Victoria, the Port Philip East Presbytery (Uniting Church in Australia) Climate Action Network has developed some resources to help congregations celebrate National Tree Day. They are encouraging people to take the opportunity to include a link to trees and care for the environment into a worship service. A two page resource document with suggestions and a PowerPoint prayer presentation is available. There are also beautiful National Tree Day bookmarks available. Perhaps you would like to follow the Sunday service with planting a tree or native plant and invite the community, family and friends to join you in celebrating National Tree Day. 
Contact: Rev. Deacon Andrea Mayes, Heatherton Dingley UC, or call 0408 615 939

Lynne Baab reflects on trees (from a North American context).
I have always loved trees. They speak to me of God’s creativity, complexity, beauty and provision. In high school, we had three young birch trees in our back yard. To me, they looked like young girls dancing, reflecting the joy of living in God’s beautiful world.
As a university student, I took hundreds of photos of the sun shining through trees. I particularly admired the translucence of maple leaves backlit by the sun, speaking to me of the beauty of the Light of the World.
I often remember the trees from places I’ve traveled. The first time I travelled to New Mexico and Colorado in the fall, the round, golden aspen leaves made me gasp with pleasure. The trees looked like they were covered with gold coins, a picture of God’s rich beauty and abundance.
The eucalyptus trees in Australia were a revelation. I had always loved the smell of eucalyptus trees when I visited Northern California, but I thought “eucalyptus” referred to one kind of tree. In Australia, dozens of species of eucalyptus fill the streets and parks, each species with a slightly different color or shape. Of the 700 species of eucalyptus in the world, most are native to Australia. Seeing all those different kinds of eucalyptus trees made me feel like a kid in a candy shop of trees, all of them intricately created by the Maker of all beauty.
Trees are used throughout the Bible as metaphors for various aspects of faith. The tree planted by streams of water in Psalm 1 bears fruit in its season and has green leaves even in a drought. Who is like that tree? A person who loves God, does what is right, and meditates on God’s law day and night.
The vision of God’s abundance described in Isaiah 55:12 talks about joy and peace, which will be so powerful that the mountains will sing and “all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” I read that verse for the first time as a very young Christian, during my photographing-trees-in-the-sun phase, and I posted the verse on my bulletin board because it was so vivid and joyous.
In John’s vision of heaven, recounted in Revelation 21 and 22, the river of life flows through the city, with the tree of life growing beside it, “and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Rev 22:2). The nations so desperately need God’s healing. I wonder if those healing leaves look like maple leaves with the sun shining through them. Perhaps those healing leaves are gold, like aspen leaves in the fall.
Trees take simple ingredients – carbon dioxide from the air, water and minerals from the soil – and turn them into beautiful branches and leaves, as well as delicious fruit and precious oxygen. Because humans and other mammals breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, trees give balance, providing the oxygen that is essential for human life. Without trees, the rising carbon dioxide level of the air would make life impossible for two reasons: lack of oxygen for mammals to breathe and ever increasing temperatures caused by carbon dioxide’s greenhouse effect.
Arbor Day focuses on planting trees, these miracles of beauty and oxygen.  This year, to celebrate Arbor Day, plant a tree. Draw a tree. Photograph a tree. Look out your window or go outside and enjoy the trees that you can see. And don’t forget to thank God for trees.
(Originally posted on Godspace).

For further reflection:
The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How they Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben will blow your mind. Did you know that trees communicate with each other? They do it through chemicals they release into the wind and through fungi and other plants in the earth.

In November 2017, Rev Brian Polkinghorne was presented the ‘Award of Merit’ by the Roseworthy Old Collegians Association. The now 80-year-old and his family moved to Tanzania 12 months after he completed agriculture studies at Roseworthy College in 1969. He went as an agricultural missionary and has been back and forth to Tanzania on many occasions working on different projects. The African Evangelistic Enterprise invited him to open up a large reforestation project in Tanzania, funded by the Australian government. Brian and his team convinced farmers to plant and nurture 6.72 million trees. More here.

Rev Brian Polkinghorne

Creator God,
Out of chaos you brought order.
Out of nothingness you brought life.
In the middle of all life stands the tree.
Trees provide the air that nurtures all your creation.
Birds make them their homes.
Cats climb them for protection.
Trees recycle life that has come before.
Bless the trees of this word, loving God.
Remind us to serve as their caregivers and protectors.
Give them long limbs and long life.
The gift of their breath is as special to us as the breath of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

May you live a life rooted and grounded
in God’s presence.
May you stand tall and strong,
Bending with grace and trust in life’s storms.
May you give and receive freely,
Holding on to nothing for long,
So that all life might flourish.
May you hold space for those
Around you, bearing witness to
The joy and pain of life. Amen.
(Source: Wendy Janzen)

The dream of my life
Is to lie down by a slow river,
And stare at the light in the trees –
To learn something by being nothing
A little while but the rich
Lens of attention.
(Source: Mary Oliver, “Entering the Kingdom”)

O God, You Made the Trees
TERRA BEATA D (“This is My Father’s World”)
O God, you made the trees! The oak and Douglas fir,
the maple, beech, and sweetgum reach their branches heavenward.
The willow, growing wide — the redwood, tall and strong —
and cedar trees! Yes, all of these sing out creation’s song.

You made each living thing to give and to receive.
As roots grow down into the ground, they twist and interweave.
A canopy of green restores and cools the air.
Great branches shade the earth you made, and dance — as if in prayer.

How often we forget the forests and their worth!
We lay cement on places meant to be the lungs of earth.
For profit and for gain, we build and build some more;
We cut down woods in neighborhoods of people who are poor.

O God, you made the trees — the apple and the pine.
You made them all and still you call: “Take care of what is mine!”
May we receive your gift and give ourselves anew
to do our best, as we’ve been blessed, to care for trees for you.

Tune: Traditional English melody (“This is My Father’s World”) (MIDI)
Text: Copyright © 2021 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email: New Hymns:

About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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