Tree of Life

Date posted: Thursday 13 September 2018

Last month, at the ELCA/ELCT Companion Synod Summit in Moshi, Tanzania (on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro) participants were invited to imagine their companion synod/diocese relationships in the form of a tree. We were asked to think about the history of our relationship, its successes and its challenges, using images of flowers, branches, trunks, and roots. And then we were asked to piece them together.


Working side by side, with markers and pens and tape and paper, leaders from Saint Paul and Iringa came up with the picture above. Beginning at the top and working your way down you'll notice:


Flowers - Singular events that were beautiful but lasted a short amount of time, like Bishop Gaville's installation, Bishop Lull's visit, the Iringa Choir tour to Minnesota and a wedding party in Mpalapande.


Leaves - Short term programs that have an impact but also fade away when they run their course, like youth camps, agricultural programming, walks for water and food distribution.


Branches - Activities and initiatives that help us to spread out and expand our reach, like support for scholarships, the construction of chapels, the purchase of pikipikis and the development work of our affiliated organizations.


Twigs - Activities that were well-intentioned but, in retrospect, were distracting have been pruned off and are piled in the corner. They include things like the bulk shipment of meal packs, a variety of 'fund a need' requests, and facilitating private scholarship support.


The Trunk - Actions and activities that have been strong, sustaining, and that hold the relationship together. Here we identified the strategy of cultivating a network of nearly seventy companion congregations, the committees in the synod and diocese that provide governance, and the team of employees and volunteers in Saint Paul and Iringa that work to tend to the whole.


Roots - These are the actions and initiatives that have gone deep, are most valued, and connect us to the core values of accompaniment from which this relationship grows. Here we located the 'Thee Pillars' of BKB, namely the practice of prayer, presence, and projects that we pursue with and for one another.


Fruit/Offshoots - At the base of the tree we made room to identify people in both Minnesota and Tanzania who are, in a sense, fruits of this relationship - individuals who have had the arc of their life altered by it and are involved in the planting, growth, and development of new trees as well.


At the conclusion of our event in Moshi, each pairing was asked to post their tree on the walls of our meeting room. We were surrounded by a forest of relationship and a diversity of trees - each telling their own story and each reflective of the hearts, hands, and minds that came together to create them.


It was, in a word, beautiful.




The Rev. Peter Harrits

Director of Bega Kwa Bega & Assistant to the Bishop