The Prayer Tree

When I was at Ghost Ranch for a Unitarian Universalist ministers retreat in October, I learned about prayer trees. One day, after a meaningful conversation about the future of Unitarian Universalism, we wrote our prayers, dreams and wishes on to ribbons and tied them to the branches of a beautiful tree just outside our meeting space.


I wanted to learn more and found this information provided by Sandra Ingerman:

“In indigenous cultures it is believed that everything that is alive has a spirit and we live in partnership with the spirit that lives in all things. For it is believed that all of life is connected to a web of life. And together with all of life we live in a place of cooperation and partnership. It is important to honor and respect all of life that is connected to this amazing web.


In Siberia, trees are seen as seen as sacred as they bridge the heaven and the earth. There is a wonderful shamanic tradition in Siberia of creating a prayer tree. Traditional food and drink offerings are left by the tree. The shaman in the community chants and gives thanks to the helping spirits for carrying the prayers of the people up to the universe so that the dreams manifest back on earth. People tie ribbons loosely on the branches of the tree. As the tree will continue to grow it is important not to choke the branch with a ribbon that is tied on too tight. The ribbons tied on the tree are empowered by individuals in the community with personal prayers as well as prayers for loved ones, families and for the community itself.”


She goes on in the article to suggest that we create community prayer trees as a way to create healing for all of life.


I read the article and then looked out my office sliding glass doors. You may have seen what is there – a beautiful meditation garden. It is not “Kelly’s Garden” or “The Minister’s Garden.”  It is our Meditation Garden. Against the north wall, there is a lovely tree. About a year ago, Beckett Coppola (former church member and now minister) gave me a wind chime, and I hung it in that tree. All year I have watched the wind blow through the chimes. In the summer I can hear the faint twinkling sound they make. On this particular day, after reading about prayer trees, I thought to myself, “That’s it. That tree could be a sacred bridge. It could be a way in which our community offers prayers and dreams to the universe.”  


So in mid-January, the Sanctuary Now Ministry Team and I did it. We wrote our prayers onto ribbon. We gave thanks to the tree and the wind. And as we read the prayers out loud, we tied the ribbons loosely to the tree branches. Then we thanked the tree and the wind again.


So now, the invitation is to you. If you have a wish, dream or prayer, add it to the UUCB Prayer Tree. Tie the ribbon loosely. Thank the tree and wind. And trust that your intentions will be acknowledged – even if just by you. (More on that February 3 when I tell the story of how “Trust” became my word for 2019.)


Much love,


Rev. Kelly

PS – When I mention an article or book in a sermon, I link to it here: That way you can explore if you would like!