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Being A Pruning People

Pastor Robin Lunn

When I lived in New Hampshire my former wife and I owned a house on a marsh and the previous owners had planted four apple trees, a peach tree, a cherry tree, a plum bush, and four high bush blueberries. These bountiful delights, along with the attached glass greenhouse, was a gift for sure. But they were also a lot of work!

The fruit trees had not been pruned for a while and the cherry had never been pruned. I went on the Cooperative Extension website to learn how to prune the various plants. I watched YouTube videos about shapes and plant health. I went to the hardware store and bought the proper tools. And then I began pruning.

Growing up around orchards I knew this was important, but I didn’t realize just how much work maintaining these trees and shrubs would be. Apples need a certain kind of pruning at a certain time of year. Peaches another kind. Plums and cherries another. Blueberries yet another. It seemed that my days off from mid-February through April were taken with loppers, clippers and moving brush.

For four years I rotated hard pruning the apples, knowing that I would need to maintain these trees after the new growth came in. I shaped the peach tree one year and had to hard prune it the following year due to an ice storm. The cherry was a lost cause, so I gave up and shared it with the birds. And the plum seemed to grow faster than I could prune it.

But it was the blueberries that were the most satisfying. Having grown up in Maine I wasn’t familiar with high bush blueberries. The necessity to take most of the old growth out every year and to leave four new stems seemed severe. But the results were amazingly bountiful year after year! While the fruit trees had good and bad years, the blueberries always gifted us with gallons of berries.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1-2) The Pandemic has taken us into a fallow season and now we are being asked to look at the trees that make up this FCUCC orchard and prune what is no longer bearing fruit, what is lopsided, and what was broken during the storms of the last two years.

I know it is hard to imagine pruning the mission and ministry of FCUCC just as the pandemic thaw is happening. I know because it was really hard to be so ruthless with my trees. Yet, the bounty that came was well worth the effort. I trust that our mission and ministry will blossom and produce an abundance of fruit that will feed Salem and beyond.

Here is to the new growth, the green shoots and the abundance to come!

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