Tree of Life Songs of Praise


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Tree of Life

Bishop James Jones tells Claire McCollum why forests are important to Christians. JB Gill meets a former addict who is now a Christian who works as a tree surgeon.


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Today, I'm in Lincoln - a beautiful cathedral city surrounded,

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on every side, by fields, woods and forests to explore

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the connections between the great outdoors and Christianity.

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Welcome to Songs Of Praise.

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Today, how the UK's trees are being protected with the help of Bishop James Jones...

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You realise how important the whole of creation is,

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and that's why we, as Christians, should be taking care of it.

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..JB Gill meets a Christian tree surgeon who overcame addiction...

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When I look at my old life, it's gone now,

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and now I have a new life and a new purpose.

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..and, to mark the season of Lent,

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we join a group exploring faith in the forest.

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This week, we have hymns and songs from across the UK to

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celebrate the glory of God's creation,

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and we begin with a song which was written just five years ago,

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but it's already popular right around the world.

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The city of Lincoln boasts an impressive cathedral

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and castle which contains one of only four original copies of

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the Magna Carta and another ancient text - the Charter of the Forest.

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It's so precious, it has to be kept in near darkness to protect

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the parchment from damage.

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Telling me more is Bishop James Jones,

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chair of the Independent Panel on Forestry.

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At the time of the Magna Carta, there was

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a charter for forest, and what it did was to open up the forest

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to Freemans so that ordinary people could go into the forest to

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forage for food, to graze their animals.

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Now, 800 years later, we have got new priorities, like climate change,

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and so there's a need for thinking again about why we need trees.

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In 2010, the Government put up a proposal to

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sell off the national forests,

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and there was such a big reaction from the public that they set up

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an independent panel to look at the future of forestry,

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and they asked me to chair that panel.

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Bishop James' recommendations included a call to

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invest in the UK's forests and protect them for the future.

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The Government has now launched a 25-year environment plan

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and, on the 800th anniversary of the original,

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a brand-new tree charter has been launched by the Woodland Trust.

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There's a feeling that we've lost connection with our trees and

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our woods and that they're becoming much more threatened day by day.

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For me, trees in particular are like faith - they sometimes wither

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and shrivel up but, most of the time, they're green

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and they're flourishing and they provide seeds and fruit for us

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to sustain ourselves on.

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And ancient woodland, in particular,

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is like the great bastions of our faith - cathedrals -

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and therefore is in need of just the same level of protection these days.

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Trees appear in the opening pages of the Bible and in the closing pages.

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God is the first forester.

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We're told that he planted a garden in Eden and then

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he planted trees that were good to look at and that were good for food.

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And then, of course, at the end,

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you have this wonderful picture of Heaven coming down to Earth,

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and there are the trees again on the banks of the river,

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and these trees have leaves for the healing of the nation.

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For you, personally, and your faith and your Christian life,

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how important is the environment and preserving our beautiful trees and woodland?

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In the year 2000, I went around schools,

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and I learnt about the environment from young people themselves.

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I listened to their hopes about the future,

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and that challenged me to go back, in fact, to the Gospels and to

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read and to find out what Jesus himself had to say about the Earth.

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And, interestingly, the one title that Jesus takes to himself

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is Son of Man which, in Hebrew, means Child of the Earth.

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And in the Lord's Prayer, he encourages us

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to pray that God's will be done on Earth as it's done in Heaven.

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And when you begin to see the Christian faith through that lens,

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you realise how important the whole of creation is,

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and that's why we, as Christians, should be taking care of it.

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Plenty of us in the UK love the great outdoors,

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even in the cold of winter.

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In Essex, one group combines that love with the Christian faith.

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They're heading into the woods as part of a nationwide movement

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known as Forest Church, and this group is led by Rachel Summers.

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And so we've got a few different activities for us to do today.

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In Forest Church today, we're just taking the chance to come

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and be together outside, enjoy some time together,

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enjoy the beautiful muddy woodland, and find God outside here.

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People are doing Forest Church all around the country in lots

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of very different ways, so some people who are doing it in much more

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formal ways than I am, some people much more liturgically than I am.

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I'm doing it with lots of activities.

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We've been looking ahead to Lent, which is just around the corner,

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and thinking about those 40 days that Jesus spent

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out in the wilderness and how he was travelling on that journey

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out in the desert, thinking about his mission.

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And so some of the activities we've been doing have been to do

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with journeying - watching the movement of the clouds

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and also bashing away at the leaves,

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the things that we're getting ready to put down on our journey.

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You're doing little things that, you know,

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sometimes the textbook can't give to you,

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and you've just literally become more at one with God.

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Seeing some of the early signs of spring

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and nature is really quite rejuvenating, good for the soul.

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I like gathering in church, but I also like worshipping outside

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because I think that's what Jesus coming here is all about -

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being part of the whole of creation.

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It really helps me

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and my family to notice things that we wouldn't be noticing otherwise.

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Sometimes, it's the surprising things that you

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stumble across that show you this beauty from God.

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Making the pancakes - this amazing, beautiful noise from the bubbling fat

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as we're trying to season the pan is almost like a melodic tune.

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Rachel's group come out to this patch of urban forest several

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times a year to mark the main Christian seasons.

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It's always varied, it's always moving.

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It makes me be able to feel part of something that's bigger

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than myself, and that pushes me towards seeing the person of Jesus

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who is here in a relationship with me now.

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One of the symbols that some Christians use during Lent is

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ash on Ash Wednesday.

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So, at the end of our session today,

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we put out the fire together with water

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and use the water to mix around with the ash

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and mark ourselves the sign of the cross with that,

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just as a symbol that here we are, as part of this creation, and we're

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getting ready at this beginning of Lent to follow Jesus in his journey.

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We don't really go out to do this kind of very often,

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so it's quite nice for a change.

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I like the pancakes. I eat them!

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What brings us all together is just this love of being outside,

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this sense of connection with creation.

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It's something that people are able to engage with,

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and I think that's really special.

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Lincoln's majestic cathedral contains

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an abundance of images of the natural world,

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including mysterious figures known as Green Men,

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as explained by Christian author Simon Cross.

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Green Men are little carvings, sometimes in stone,

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sometimes in wood, that are found in various places -

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churches and cathedrals primarily - all over Europe, in fact.

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And, as you can see, he's got leaves and tendrils growing

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out of his mouth and then growing up round his face.

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While Green Men aren't mentioned in the Bible, Simon believes

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they're linked to a medieval Christian story about Adam,

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the first man on the Earth.

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Adam, when he was dying, asked his son to get him

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some fruit from the Garden of Eden.

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His son brought him some seeds,

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but he was too late - Adam had already died.

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So he planted the seeds in Adam's mouth.

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The seeds grew into a massive tree and then, a long time later,

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the wood from that tree was used to form the cross that Jesus died on.

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I think what it reflects, to me,

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is the fact that God is present everywhere -

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God is present out there just as much as God is present within.

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So it reminds us that all ground is holy ground, it reminds us

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that God's presence suffuses everything.

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For thousands of years, trees have provided food,

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fuel and shelter,

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so it's not surprising that many people recognise their importance,

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but they do need looking after, as JB Gill has been finding out.

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-Hello, there. You must be Timon.

-Yeah, good to meet you, JB.

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I'm in the Midlands to meet Timon Robins and his team.

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They run a tree surgery business set up by Christian charity Betel UK.

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Timon, what's it like, cutting down trees for living?

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It can be exhilarating, it can be a little bit scary sometimes as well!

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-You've got to keep your wits about you.

-I can imagine. And this tree's dead, isn't it?

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Yeah, it failed to come into leaf this year, maybe cos,

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when they built the wall, it went through the root plate,

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and it's got its big brother there is crowding the light out.

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It was covered in ivy as well, so it's got to go cos it's not safe.

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So this is going to come down completely?

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Yeah, we're hoping, maybe if we've got time today, we'll get the stem down as well.

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For Timon, who's recovered from addiction,

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this is more than just a job - it's a calling

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and the culmination of a life-changing journey of faith.

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When I came to Betel, I'd been a heroin addict for 20 years.

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I mean, it started off when I was young - I started smoking, started

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taking so-called soft drugs, and it spiralled out of control, really.

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And, by the time I was 21, I was hooked on heroin and crack cocaine.

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I tried so many different things to try and break free -

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all types of different rehab programmes and everything.

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When I came here, I was seven and a half stone, I was stinking,

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all my friends had died, I was in a lot of trouble.

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I came here, I wasn't even sure if I was going to survive,

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I was very fearful.

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But, when I came here, through there,

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the people in the house were amazing,

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the guys really looked after me.

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There was a lot of care, a lot of love.

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I experienced the life of Christ and the love of Christ through

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people who'd been through the same thing that I'd been through.

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And I think I had to come to a place of real brokenness

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before things got better, really.

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It was when I accepted the Gospel.

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I got to a point where I wanted to allow Christ to take over

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and I think, when I look at my old life, it's gone now,

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and now I have a new life and a new purpose.

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I have a fantastic relationship with my family now.

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They sometimes ring me up for advice on problems

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-whereas before

-I

-was the big problem.

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Timon is now leader of this residential community,

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supporting others on their journey of restoration through

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the work of the tree surgery business.

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It's quite therapeutic, working outdoors, isn't it?

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I think so, yeah, and I think being close to nature is nice.

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Being close to God's creation, I think,

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does something in you that's really cool.

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I get to help people, I get to pass on not just the tree skills

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that I've learnt myself, but I get to pass on the life skills

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and the new life that I've found in Christ.

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So, for you, what's been the most powerful thing?

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Just being able to call on the name of Jesus has been an amazing strength,

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has been an amazing source of power,

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to be able to overcome things in my life.

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# As morning dawns and evening fades

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# You inspire songs of praise

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# That rise from Earth to touch your heart

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# And glorify your name

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# Your name is a strong and mighty tower

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# Your name is a shelter like no other

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# Your name

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# Let the nations sing it louder

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# Cos nothing has the power to save

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# But your name

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# Jesus, in your name we pray

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# Come and fill our hearts today

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# Lord, give us strength to live for you

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# And glorify your name

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# Your name is a strong and mighty tower

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# Your name is a shelter like no other

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# Your name

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# Let the nations sing it louder

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# Cos nothing has the power to save

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# But your name

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# Is a strong and mighty tower

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# Your name is a shelter like no other

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# Your name

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# Let the nations sing it louder

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# Cos nothing has the power to save

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# But your name

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# Oh, Jesus, your name

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# Give us strength for another day

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# Oh

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# Jesus, your name. #

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Earlier, we heard how the Woodland Trust's new tree charter

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resulted from pioneering work by Bishop James Jones.

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-Hi, Anita, great to see you.

-Hello.

-This is Bishop James.

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-Hello, pleased to meet you.

-Very good to meet you.

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And we've come to see the spirit of the tree charter in action

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in a project run by volunteers from Lincoln Cathedral.

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Hundreds of brand-new oak saplings have been planted to secure

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the long-term future of both the cathedral and the countryside.

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Why is it so important to plant these trees here, Anita?

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Lincoln Cathedral needs a constant supply of oak,

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so we've created this project now so, in 100 years' time,

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the oaks that we've planted can be used for the restoration

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of the cathedral roof.

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And what's been the response of the local community?

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It's been absolutely amazing. We could have done it twice over.

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We had families coming over, planting trees in memory of people.

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And do people come and see how their tree's growing?

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They do, yes, and they're all digitally mapped now

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so they can go on Nettleham Woodland Trust's website

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and find out exactly where their tree is.

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And this has really been your baby from the start, Anita.

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How proud are you of what you've achieved here?

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I'm absolutely delighted at how it's gone.

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We even sold a tree to someone in Australia

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and someone in America who are passionate about Lincoln Cathedral.

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I love the thought of the children coming because, in fact,

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it's the children's children who are going to be

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chopping down the trees to use it for the cathedral.

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Absolutely, in 100 years' time, yeah.

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Today, Bishop James

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and I are having a go at planting our own oak sapling.

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If this is the only tree in the copse that doesn't survive!

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A bit more mulch. Lovely. It's wonky no more.

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Amazing to think, in 100 years' time,

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-this could be in the roof of the cathedral.

-Yep.

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We'll be dead and gone by then, but the cathedral will still be standing

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to the glory of God, as indeed the trees grow to the glory of God.

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I'm sure you agree it's really important to protect

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the environment for the future, Bishop.

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I love the thought of this tree growing

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and then becoming a home for birds, for insects, for beetles and,

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just as the tree is sort of giving life to nature, so God gives us

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life through the very trees that are growing here and around the world.

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Well, that's almost it for our time here in Lincolnshire.

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Next week, Sean Fletcher meets Graham Kendrick,

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who changed the face of modern worship.

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And we celebrate more great British hymn writers with

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music from the Royal Albert Hall.

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Our closing hymn reminds us that, in both creation and the everyday

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lives of Christians, it's God who's given the glory.

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Claire McCollum joins bishop James Jones in Lincoln to learn about the links between Christianity and forests. The 800-year-old Charter of the Forest is given a 21st-century relaunch and JB Gill meets a former addict whose Christian faith, combined with his new job as a tree surgeon, have together cured his addiction. In Essex, a group prepares for Lent with 'Forest Church', plus hymns and songs celebrating creation, including Great Are You Lord and Indescribable.

Music: This Is Amazing Grace, from Green Pastures, Ballymena For the Fruits of His Creation, from St John the Baptist Church, Tideswell Indescribable, from Holy Trinity Platt Church Be Still for the Presence of the Lord, from Christ Church, Port Sunlight Your Name, from Presbyterian Assembly Buildings, Belfast Great Are You Lord, from City Gates, Ilford To God Be the Glory, from St Macartin's Cathedral, Enniskillen.