Thanks so much to Rosie for this heartfelt and deeply moving thought..
Rebuilding Notre Dame by Rosie Deedes
It was horrifying to watch the beautiful building of Notre Dame burning in April 2019. For people in France and around the world it was a moment of shock and tragedy, a time to mourn. But when the ashes settled finally, I wondered what would happen next? What would emerge creative and new, like a phoenix, from them? I pictured the shell of the great cathedral in tact with an urban woodland planted there, that would be preaching the gospel afresh in a new generation – to one that cares deeply for the environment. Surely this would be a place of welcome, hope, transformation, and healing for all nations?
It is with great sadness that I learned that nothing new is going to emerge, just replication of the old. But the greater sadness still, is that in restoring an ancient building, we are destroying an even older ecosystem. 1000 ancient oak trees are to be felled to recreate the roof of Notre Dame.
Can a plank or wood, however skillfully carved, ever be as stunning as a living tree? Can it provide home, habitat, shelter to hundreds of species of wildlife? Can it heal the planet of its excessive pollution of the earth’s atmosphere? It cannot.
We should weep at the destruction of each of those trees, just as much as people wept over the destruction of Notre Dame. More so. For each oak, each tree is a cathedral in itself – pointing to the glories of creation, and the wonders of the natural world. Each tree speaks of our miraculously woven interconnectedness, the value of each part, the body of Christ. It is a living object of beauty, life, and hope. We should cherish and protect each tree as we would protect any one we love.
Destroying these oaks is an abomination on the scale of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, the ruination of woodland caused by the building of HS2. Trees cut down for these projects are sacrificed on the idolatrous altar of capitalism and progress - greed and speed. Trees cut down to reroof a cathedral are being crucified in the name of faith.
Jesus wept. He wept over Jerusalem’s destruction. He weeps over our planet’s destruction now. We should all weep; for the trees, for our ignorance, for our hardness of heart. Have we learned nothing from our faith? The temple was destroyed, the curtain torn in two. Have we learned nothing from the earth? We are to be stewards of creation not executioners of its inhabitants. Have we not heard the prophets of our time who cry out for justice and mercy for the planet in the face of a climate emergency? We ignore them at our peril and at the peril of generations to come.
Surely there are better ways to restore a building - if we must do so? Surely it is not too late to think again? Surely, we could use materials that have been recycled, that have a positive impact on the environment?
Out of every crisis comes the opportunity for growth and learning. We appear to be ignoring the lessons of a burning building. In doing so we are contributing to a far greater disaster and an even greater catastrophe.
As they nailed Jesus to a tree, he cried out to God “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do?” Will we be forgiven for destroying the trees when we do know what we are doing?