SPRING GREEN, Wis. - When a fire destroyed 147 years of a Cornerstone church's history on Nov. 14, 2015, left standing was a 33-foot-tall ash tree. Planted the same year the Cornerstone Church was built, it stood watch over the entrance. Over the years, the old ash tree had become weakened as the base of the trunk had became hollow. To make room for a new church and for safety reasons, the old ash tree had to be removed.
But rather than discard an old tree that traces its roots to the building, designers made it a key part of the new church. The wood from the 33-foot-tall-tree has been turned into a 33-foot-tall design that frames a cross in the church's sanctuary.
Jim Birkemeier of Spring Green Timber Growers took the old ash tree, along with two honey locust trees, to his shop. Through a lot of work, he was able to save 1,000 board feet of wood from the ash tree.
“I’ve been working with wood for 40 years, and it is an amazing experience to see just what’s inside one tree,” Birkemeier said.
The work, which the church is calling “One Ash Tree,”provides a connection to the past for a church being built for the future.
“To have that same tree still be part of this building, it is very comforting,” says Debra Miller, who heads up the women’s and children’s ministries at the church.
A dozen volunteers from the community worked to save the wood from the ash tree and turn it into the "One Ash Tree."
“It brings tears to the eyes of everybody who worked on it,” Birkemeier said.
An open house to celebrate the new church will be held on Jan. 8 from 2. to 6 p.m. While work on the sanctuary will not be completed in time for Christmas, the church will hold a Christmas Eve candlelight service in the new fellowship hall.
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