Historic Tree at Blue Ridge Community Church Coming Down
By Katie Brooke
New London, VA - It's been a part of the landscape for hundreds of years: a massive tree that's been hit by lightning three times at Blue Ridge Community Church in New London has to come down. When the tree was struck by lightning last week, it sent shards of wood everywhere, even knocking out one of the windows in the church nursery. Now it's become a hazard. This is no ordinary tree, however it's a landmark the church has built itself around, and they say they couldn't be sadder to see it go. "When we got this property he said, 'I don't care what trees have to be cut down, we can plant trees, but that tree has to stay," said Paul Burneson, Director of Facilities. Before seminary, the Senior Pastor at Blue Ridge Community church was a horticulture and forestry major at Virginia Tech, and from the start, he wanted this tree to be a part of the grounds. So, they built the church around it. "We've designed our traffic patterns here to keep the tree here, everything is done around this tree," said Ryan George, Parking Team Leader. The church says their parking teams meet under the tree every Sunday morning to pray, and over the years it's been a spot for people to gather and fellowship together. "This one pretty much did the death blow to the tree," Burneson said. Paul Burneson says he was sitting out front of the church when he heard a huge boom. "This 50-year-old plus body jumped off the ground several feet I think," Burneson said. It was then, he realized this tree had been hit by lightning for the third time in nearly 10 years. "There were kind of spears of wood in the ground over here and just leaves everywhere," Burneson said. Thankfully no one was hurt, but there was damage to the building. Wood shattered through the church nursery window. It made members realize the lightning strike was one too many. "This tree has seen so much of the history of this country and this area," Burneson said. The tree will be cut-down June 14. The church has hired professionals and also has many volunteers lined up to help. They say they hope they can use the wood to make a sentimental piece of furniture for the church. And they also have plans to store the wood to help people who need fire-wood next winter.
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