TROY — Members of the First United Church of Christ gathered last Sunday to celebrate the opening of a new prayer tree garden in downtown Troy.
Located next door to the church at 120 South Market Street, the new prayer tree garden will be open year-round to the public, as well as church members.
“Everyone is welcome,” First United Church of Christ pastor Lauren Allen said. “This is an invitation to the community to sit and to be in the presence of God; to know that this is a sacred space for them as well as for our church family.”
“The hope is that the community will recognize this as an opportunity as they pass by,” said church member Bruce Davidson.
The garden includes flowers as well as a prayer tree, where visitors write their prayer on a tag and hang it in the tree. Prayer tags are read by the pastor on a regular basis, marked with a red cross and prayed for by the congregation during worship service.
“I come out and read the tags periodically, and mark them with a red cross,” Allen said. “We mention the prayer tree each week in our prayers. We do remember them as a church family.”
Church members dedicated the new prayer tree to the memory of former deaconess Ame Wilgus.
“She just was a very compassionate person and a very prayerful person,” Allen said. “Ame was one of our deaconesses for many years, which is one of the roles that she took on to go out and bring comfort to people who are shut-in or in the hospital.”
“This is perfect, because she not only prayed to God, but she allowed God to use her as the answer to prayers,” Allen said.
Wilgus’ son also attended the ceremony and helped dedicate the tree.
“She cared about each of you,” Joseph Wilgus said. “She had a personal relationship with each of you.”
“This tree is a good representation and reminder of labors in Christ, for us to establish a personal relationship with Christ,” he said. “Having this tree here, it’s great and I appreciate it. It’s nice of you to think of mom in that way, but also when you see that tree I would like you to think of the prayer life we should be having.”
The First United Church of Christ purchased the land for the prayer garden in the early 1980s and tore down a house that was already on the property in the early 2000s.
“The church decided we ought to buy this parcel of ground in case we wanted to expand,” Davidson said. “We tore down the house and garage, filled in the basement, put top soil down and put grass in to it.”
Nowadays, the prayer garden is filled with several different types of flowers, most of which were donated by church members.
“Most of what you see has come from people’s gardens,” Davidson said. “Very little of it had to be purchased.”
Ame Wilgus’ family donated the prayer tree.
“The garden has been here for several years now, but the tree itself was a way of inviting the community into this place,” Allen said. “We wanted to offer something to the community all the time, to let them know that this is their space as well as ours.”
During the recent Troy Strawberry Festival, the prayer garden had so many visitors that the church actually ran out of prayer tags. “We used up all the tags we had,” Davidson said.
“We’ve had people use it as their background for pictures,” Allen said of the garden. “We’re just glad that people are starting to use it as their place, whether it’s in prayer or for something else; that they realize they are invited here as everybody is.”