TROY — Over the last year, the First United Church of Christ in Troy has provided a spiritual area for visitors to gather near what is known as the “prayer tree.”
According to the Rev. Lauren Allen, who has served the church for the past seven years, the idea of a prayer tree came about in the spring of 2018.
“The idea was to place a tree in our garden here that would invite folks to come and take a second or a moment to write out a prayer request and attach it to the tree as a way of entering a sacred space,” Allen said. “We wanted people to know that this space was their’s as well as ours and that they’re invited to use it.”
Located in the green space near the church’s north building, at 120 S. Market St., the prayer tree was first opened in the fall of 2018, with a dedication ceremony being held in the spring of this year.
Near the small tree are two benches, along with a mailbox containing cardboard tags, pens, and ties for visitors to attach their prayers to the tree. A gravel path leads to the area from the sidewalk and in front of the tree is a plaque in memory of Alma M. “Ame” Wilgus, a life-long member of First United Church of Christ, who passed away in 2014.
“Ame was a lovely, lovely woman who did her share of praying for others,” Allen said.
Along with providing a space for all to gather, Allen said another important reason behind the addition of the tree was to allow those who aren’t involved in church to still have a devotional place to visit.
“We recognize that some people aren’t necessarily comfortable walking through the doors of the church, but they’re comfortable walking into the garden as a sacred place, so it was our way of introducing a moment of sacredness in their life,” she said. “We’ll always be looking for some way to help folks engage in their spiritual growth and so that was the purpose: to provide a moment that somebody might not have taken advantage of in the church itself.”
Visitors are invited to sit on the benches and write down — in as much or as little detail as they wish — their prayer requests before hanging them on a branch of the tree.
“We hold an inclusive prayer each week for all of them, and I try to go out regularly and mark them with a red cross to say that somebody has read them,” Allen said. “When they really get faded, we will take them down, and we’ll have a moment of blessing in the sanctuary for those.”
Allen said the prayer tree is now a permanent fixture of the church and will remain for years to come.
“I’ve really been pleased at how many people, and especially, children have left prayers,” she said. “We’re very grateful that people find it to be useful.”
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