The Living Tree

The Sculpture

One of the first visions of the Bible, found in Genesis chapter 2, is that of the tree of life planted by God and growing in middle of the Garden of Eden. One of the last visions, found in Revelation chapter 22, is that of the river of the water of life flowing from the throne of God through the middle of the heavenly city. Growing on the banks of the river, nourished by the life giving flow, is the “tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

The living tree is found at the beginning of our sacred story as well as the end. In between, the tree also figures prominently. It is under the oaks of Mamre that Abraham and Sarah learn they will at last have a son. The Psalms extol the deeply rooted tree as an image of the life of faith. Mary and Joseph lay their infant son in a manger, a feeding trough likely made from the wood of a tree. Jesus dies on a cross, the wood of a tree put to a most terrible use.

Among the mental images that give texture and tenacity to our faith, a tree is likely to be found. Rooted, growing, changing, the tree reminds us that like the leaves of the tree by the heavenly river, we live to bring healing to our city, healing to the nations.

As John moves toward his articulation of his vision of the living tree and its healing leaves he shares the promising words of the Holy One, “Behold I make all things new.” The living tree is a symbol of God’s promise to take our lives – the good and the bad, the shining moments and the regrettable errors, the joy and the sorrow, the pleasant unions and the painful partings, the mangers and the crosses – and make them new.

The “Living Tree,” which we have asked artist Eric Powell to craft, represents our vision of God’s work of renewal. The tree, growing out of both the waters of baptism and the form of a cross is not perfectly or evenly formed. It has known some wind and storm. Still, it grows as a symbol of what God can do with us and with our community as we root ourselves in the waters of baptism and link ourselves to the life giving power of the cross. We can indeed become, as Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church and Oakland First Baptist Church, leaves of the tree that offers healing to the nations.

Pastor Jim Hopkins

The Artist

I have been a metal artist since 1989…my work is a developmental experience and a medium for growth and expression. The studio is a laboratory, a workshop and a factory. It is a place to learn and teach, and to refine and deepen the sacred act of creating something with one’s own hands. It is inspiring and empowering to create something out of metal that melds aesthetics, function and craftsmanship.

I have been greatly enriched by viewing and studying the work of other creative people. Early on I knew that I wanted to be part of this long and rich lineage. This comes not from feeling that I am qualified to make a contribution to the mix; it comes from not accepting that I am not qualified. Much of the art and music that I most admire springs from this sensibility. It comes from a place of receptivity, where deep underground reservoirs can be accessed. It is sometimes difficult to maintain this state of mind. But if the internal fire is burning, we have no choice but to follow and respond to it.

Artist Eric Powell

The Donors

While the gifts of many persons helped bring this work of art into being, three memorial gifts need to be noted.

Richard M. Jones
Former Moderator of LABC
American Baptist Leader
Social Change Activist

Rodney Romney
Former Pastor of LABC
Respected Conference Speaker
Noted Author

The Wong Family
Mr. and Mrs. J.S. Chu (Parents of Evelyn)
Ben Wong
Jonathon Wong

The Dedication

The Living Tree was dedicated to the glory of God and as a symbol of the shared future of Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church and Oakland First Baptist Church during our Sunday Worship Service on April 27, 2014. The 25th Anniversary of the pastorate of the Reverend Dr. H. James Hopkins was celebrated during the same service.