Seeing the Wood and the Trees 2018 (Jeff Whittaker)

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GL18 Seeing the Wood and the Trees Jeff Whittaker2


This Seeing the Wood and the Trees option will help you to engage with some ‘green’ issues around how we relate to and treat trees, the place of trees in the Bible and Christian world, seeing the view, and creative expression in woodwork projects. The expectation is that you will work on your own woodwork project throughout the year.

In the first weeks, starting 12 February 2018, as you begin:

Email the facilitator Jeff Whittaker to introduce yourself: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Woodwork Project

Through the 8 months of this Guided Learning option, plan and make an object of beauty or functionality out of wood. (See if you can produce an heirloom piece to pass on to family.)

Journal & Reflect

Spend some time reflecting and journaling on the place of trees in your world view. This could include instances when trees have featured significantly in a spiritual experience, how important you think trees are to the health of the planet, in what ways you think trees may be ‘alive,’ etc. Journal what sort of woodwork project you would like to work on through the year.

Journalling will enable you at the end of this option to assess any changes in your thinking that occur through this period. Your reflection/journal is a private document unless you wish to share it with your own supervisor/spiritual director/mentor/coach and/or the others taking this option - there may be opertunities to connect with others, such as a closed Facebook group.


There are five reading/action/reflection cycles. The aim is to cover one every six weeks. The readings will be available as PDF online below (by 12 February 2018).

Reading/Action/Reflection 1

Reading: Sawdust and Soul: A Conversation about Woodworking and Spirituality by William J. Everett and John W. de Gruchy (Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2015) pp 1 – 19.

Action: Using recycled or discarded wood scraps, make a Celtic cross. If you are feeling creative, carve the cross with Celtic symbols.

Reflection: Reflect on the place of trees in the Eden story, and specifically – drawing on page 12 of ‘Sawdust and Soul’ – the trees of the knowledge of good and evil. Relate this to the cross of Christ, and the healing trees described in the book of Revelation.

Reading/Action/Reflection 2

Reading: The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben (Vancouver, Canada; Greystone Books/David Suzuki Institute, 2016) pp 1 – 18.

Action: Select an appropriate tree and plant it. (If possible, do this in conjunction with a community tree-planting project.)

Reflection: Reflect on the reading from ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ in the light of the stump of Jesse described in Isaiah 11. Reflect on what implications there are here for community in terms of keeping alive what may seem dead, and how trees might help us model this sort of hope.

Reading/Action/Reflection 3

Reading: Roots of Consciousness by Anil Anathaswamy, New Scientist, Volume 224, No. 2998, pp. 34 – 37.

Action: Talk with a number of people about plant ‘intelligence,’ and the implications this has for how humanity treats plants and trees. Journal the essence of these conversations.

Reflection: In light of the reading, and your conversations, reflect on what implications this holds for you in terms of ecology and green action.

Reading/Action/Reflection 4

Reading: Dreaming of Trees in The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris (New York: Riverhead Books, 1996) pp287 – 296.

Action: Find a wood-turner in your locality. Ask him or her if you can interview them about where they source their timber from. If you are not yourself a wood-turner, see if this person will give you a lesson.

Reflection: Relate the reading to Psalm 1 (and its picture of the righteous being like trees planted by streams of living water). In particular, reflect on pastoral care from the various perspectives Norris describes affecting trees in the various localities in which she has lived. What practices of caring for others might you begin, change, or let go of?

Reading/Action/Reflection 5

Reading: The Soul of a Tree by George Nakashima (New York: Kodansha USA, 1981, 2011), chapter 10 New Life for the Noble Tree, pp. 109 – 124.

Action: Complete your woodwork project that you have been working on since February.

Reflection: Relate Nakashima’s perspective (on wood seeking to be re-used after the death of a tree and so live on in an object of beauty) to the cross of Christ as a dead tree, and how the resurrection of Jesus changes perspectives.

Final Reflection

Use the five questions in the Reflection Guide as a basis to aid your reflection and journaling with each reading/action/relection cycle. Your responses to these questions might make useful conversation starters when you meet with your own supervisor/mentor/spiritual-director/coach.

By 12 October 2018, and following the five reading/action/reflection cycles, write a reflection (1000 words, or a 10 minute vlog). Discuss ways in which your understanding of trees and their place in global ecological health has changed. Describe how your personal and/or ministry life will change as a result of the five reading/action/reflection cycles. Submit this to your facilitator Jeff Whittaker - you might also like to share it with your supervisor/mentor/spiritual-director/coach. Jeff will engage with your reflection.

Feel free to email or phone the Facilitator (Jeff Whittaker) thoughts or questions at any time through the eight months.

Facilitator: Dr Jeff Whittaker

Jeff Whittaker 120

Jeff is the Senior Pastor of Epsom Baptist Church. As well, Jeff has worked as a spiritual director for nearly 20 years. More recently, Jeff has completed a qualification in teaching English as a second language (CELTA). Coming from a family of woodworkers, Jeff has long been interested in trees and woodworking. Jeff is also provides supervision, spiritual direction, and coaching, more details online here.

Email Jeff Whittaker, the facilitator of this Seeing the Wood and the Trees option if you have specific questions:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Email Andrea or Mike at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any general questions about Lifelong Learning or Baptist Leaders' Registration.

PARTICIPANTS: Up to a maximum of 8 at any time.

COST: This course is free for registered Baptist Leaders. All other registrants will be email invoiced NZD$50 per Guided Learning option.

[updated 27 October 2017]

Event Properties

Event Date 12-02-2018
Event End Date 12-10-2018
Registration Start Date 01-11-2017
Cut off date 01-02-2018
We are no longer accepting registration for this event


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