By Rev. Justin White

Matthew 12:33
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.

Galatians 5:22–23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

“The garden is the place where the work of yesterday births the fruit of today which contains the seeds of tomorrow.” 
― Craig D. Lounsbrough

For the past few weeks, I have been working hard at the former North Mason United Methodist Church, getting ready for the new tenants who will be taking over the space in September. With the help of church members, the conference office, and our friends at Brownsville UMC, we have stepped into this new reality of one less United Methodist presence in our Mason County/Kitsap County area. We’ve gone through 20 plus years of church history, financial records, council minutes, bulletins, pictures, and other various documents. We’ve packed many boxes and filled many more boxes with papers to be shredded. This has been the hard, tedious, rigorous, and even meaningful work of faithful completion. We’ve laughed, cried, gotten angry, been anxious, and felt every other emotion as we’ve plundered through all the documents. It really has been a cycle of death, grief, and resurrection. It has been a reminder that though she is closing, North Mason UMC has birthed much fruit, and will continue to birth fruit, even in her closure. 

For those of you who never went to North Mason UMC in Belfair, the Tree of Life was the centering theme for the sanctuary and the spiritual life of the church. There was a beautiful stained-glass inlay of a Tree of Life that anchored the worshipping space. There is a stole, passed down from pastor to pastor, that bears the Tree of Life. The altarpieces had the Tree of Life glass panels on them. The wood-carved cross bore the Tree of Life.

For the past 27 years, North Mason UMC has seen its share of struggle, heartache, pain, resurrection, joy, and peace, and it was all experienced in the light of the Tree of Life. And now, the Tree of Life must be shared as NMUMC shares the fruit of its legacy.

The poet Ricky Saikia wrote, “We are the Guardians of the Tree of Life. We have been given the blessing and honor to protect it and to help others to taste its fruits with love and compassion. The Tree of Life teaches us to carry and share “Love” and only ‘Love’.”

The stained-glass Tree of Life inlays will be given to the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference and will be used in some way in a space where all folkx can see it, appreciate it, and rest in its light. As Rev. David Valera and I were removing the Tree of Life the other day, I noticed another fruit tree outside. It was one of the pear trees we recently planted, and it was bearing fruit. It is a young tree, and her branches were full of fruit — so much fruit that it had bent her branches and the fruit was hanging on the ground. It moved me. Gazing through one tree, made of glass, into another tree, bearing too much fruit for her branches, I understood the legacy that I was a part of.

It is not an easy, wonderful, lovely, or fun experience to close a church: but it can be Holy.

I have found the holiness in the stories I have learned from the many people who have called North Mason UMC home. I have found the holiness in the careful and tedious combing through of 27 years of documentation. I have found the holiness in tears that have been shed in grief. And I have found holiness in the Love that has been shared from the fruits of the Tree of Life that is North Mason. 

As I shared, the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference has received the stained-glass inlay of the Tree of Life. 

Brownsville United Methodist Church in Bremerton received the beautiful stained-glass altar, baptismal font, pulpit, and lectern. Brownsville also received many worship supplies, Worship & Song hymnals, cleaning products, and paper products. 

Shelton UMC, the Mother church of North Mason UMC, received all of The Faith We Sing hymnals, cleaning supplies, office supplies, and various other items.

Bremerton UMC received cleaning supplies, office supplies, some kitchen supplies, and other items. 

North Mason Food Bank received $825 of financial support from the local benevolences fund.

Wesley Bradley Park Senior Living in Puyallup received all of The United Methodist Hymnals.

Rev. Allan Ocampo, with the help of his wife Zeny, Rev. Mark Galang, Rev. David Valera, and seminary student Riva Tabelisma, packaged up most of NMUMC’s library for churches in the Philippines. Churches in the Philippines will also receive choir robes, a sound system, and other equipment from NMUMC.

The final offering from NMUMC was a collection of roughly $1000 that went to the Safe Harbor Fund of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference.

So much fruit being shared. So much Love from the Tree of Life spreading all over the world.

Has it been hard? Yes. Has it been Holy work? Absolutely.

I still grieve for the closing of North Mason. I grieve that there is one less Reconciling church in our midst, doing the holy work of inclusion. I grieve that there are folkx who are still hurting by the closure of the church. And yet, I am eternally grateful for my one short year to serve the beautiful people of North Mason United Methodist Church. I celebrate the life and love that I found there. I am honored to be the bearer of the Tree of Life stole that was given to me as a parting gift. The Tree of Life at North Mason UMC may have been dismantled, her fruit trees may be bent over by the fruit of her branches, and yet her life goes on, and the bounty of her branches is being shared all over the world. 

Thanks be to God!

Rev. Justin White is an Elder in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference serving as Pastor of the Brownsville United Methodist Church on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State. Until its closure, he also served as the pastor of North Mason UMC.

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