Tofino artist Dan Law helped chop down a dying rowan tree in St. Columba’s churchyard on April 10. The wood will fuel local art workshops.

Tofino church turns dead rowan tree into community art project

St. Columba has breathed new life into a dead mountain ash tree.

St. Columba has breathed new life into a dead mountain ash tree.

The roughly six-metre tree had reached the end of its life and was chopped down but its wood will be used for community art projects led by Tofitian artist and carver Dan Law.

Reverend Will Ferrey was thrilled to see the tree’s remains put to solid use and said Law will use the wood to host free community carving workshops and help local youth create marionettes.

“The mountain ash tree is also known as the rowan tree and rowan trees are understood to be sacred in Scotland, so they have all sorts of meaning attached to them…The tree had to come down and we wanted to do it in a way that would honour the tree and honour the traditions of the tree,” Ferrey said.

“It didn’t seem right to just cut this special tree down and chip it or use it for firewood or put it in the compost. We thought we could treat it better.”

The tree was cut down on April 10 as part of St. Columba’s 9:30 a.m. family service.

“We did it in the context of sacred worship…We met in the church for prayer and story to begin and then we went out and were joined by a few other folks and cut down the tree,” Ferrey said.

“As Christians, we believe that everything we do we should do to glorify God, so we wanted to be really clear that we weren’t doing this just on an ordinary day. This was something special we were doing as a worshipping community; this is part of who we are.”

He said it was important for the church to invite the community to enjoy the tree’s harvest.

“Everything we do we want to involve the community and this was just a really fun opportunity,” Ferrey said. “We understand ourselves at St. Columba as being part of the community of Tofino and we know our churchyard is a special spot for a lot of folks.”

The inspired art project recently received a $2,500 Tofino arts grant and Ferrey hopes to see the marionettes created from the wood used in a puppet show at St. Columba during the Christmas season. Dan and Molly Law hosted a popular puppet show at the church last Christmas and Ferrey is stoked on a repeat performance.

Ferrey carved a small chunk of the tree into a cross for Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of British Columbia, and former Tofino and Ucluelet minister, Logan McMenamie, who recently wrapped up his Walk for Reconciliation from Alert Bay to Victoria.

“One of the pieces of the tradition about the rowan tree is that it’s a traveler’s tree; it will bring travelers home safely,” Ferrey said.

“I carved a small wooden cross from the tree and sent it to Bishop Logan to remind him of his faith and to thank him for the important work that he’s doing in the field of reconciliation and to remind him as well that he started his ministry in Tofino and that we’re always glad to see him come home.”

He said a new tree would be planted in the churchyard.