Planting Trees Under Which We Won’t Sit

I Must Be Getting Older!

I thought I’d be a lot older by the time I got to this age. I have a hard time believing that pastors who are younger than my daughters look at me the way we looked at the “old guys” in the Conference when I came in.  Reality hit when I met a young seminary grad at Conference this week. I said, “I knew your father.  He was my District Superintendent.”  He replied, “That was my grandfather.”

I really enjoy hanging out with young clergy.  They energize me and give me great hope for the future.  I’ve also had the privilege of making the journey with some of them.  18951180_10158850413035596_6568699819153713580_nLast week when Jennifer Potter Buff was ordained, she placed her hand on the bible I signed and gave to her when she was in third grade at Hyde Park United Methodist Church where she was surrounded by a congregation that kept the promises they made at her baptism. She is a living witness to the truth that it takes a church to make a minister.

Planting Trees

Watching these young men and women take their place in leadership, I was reminded of words that are attributed to Ernest Campbell, the Senior Minister at The Riverside Church in New York City from 1968-1976.

To be young is to study in schools
we did not build.
To be mature is to build schools
in which we will not study.

To be young is to sit under trees
we did not plant.
To be mature is to plant trees
under which we will not sit.

To be young is to dance to music
we did not write.
To be mature is to write music
to which we will not dance.

To be young is to worship in churches
we did not build.
To be mature is to build churches
in which we will not worship.

It is possible to get old without becoming mature. We can be so focused on our own generation that we fail to plant trees for the next one — funding seminary scholarships, paying taxes for better public schools, mentoring underprivileged students, stepping aside for younger leaders to emerge, and allowing some things that were important to us to become the soil and manure in which new things can grow.

So, with apologies to Robert Browning, “Grow mature with me!  The best is yet to be!”

Grace and peace,


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6 thoughts on “Planting Trees Under Which We Won’t Sit

  1. John, Judie Thomas June 13, 2017 — 9:00 pm

    Jim, how refreshing!!! Thnx.

  2. June 14, 2017 — 1:13 am

    Jim, I appreciate you and the way you live out these words you have shared. Thank you for being an encouraging mentor to me (even if I am old and retired now.) Peace, David

    Sent from my iPad


  3. Oh Jim… this is so beautiful and timely! I’ve been trying to understand a bit more about an aging process that I never thought I would mind . Lately though the trees I plant and won’t sit under are in reflections of my grandchildren, or in the memory of my sister… your essay and poem have put words to feelings I’m beginning to understand… but stubbornly I admit!

  4. Good job on your “post” this week Jim……thanks for your many years of friendship……a blessing in my life! Your pal…..Bill

    Sent from my iPad


    1. Thanks for the special gift of your friendship.

  5. Thank you.

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