Special Sunday School


Gospel according to Mark

Mark McDowell, who is proud to acknowledge that he communicates with Jesus on a regular basis — and sometimes even argues with him — discussed many of his heartfelt beliefs during a special session of Sunday School — in the woods.

On Oct. 20, Mark led a group of 10 children and a few adults to the outdoor chapel, introducing his class to nature and what he considers the best of God’s world. Under a blue sky, gently falling leaves and the remnants of fall’s vibrant colors, it was a Sunday School lesson from which everyone could learn — all you had to do was listen and observe.


Mark began his class by asking everyone to be quiet for a few minutes and to pay close attention to all that surrounded them — the sounds, the sights and the scents.

Mark points out a bird following the moments of silence.

Mark points out a bird following the moments of silence.

After the moments of silence, Mark listened to everyone’s observations and then talked about what he thinks about during his own moments of silence — the majestic trees, the wide range of birds, the sound of the wind and the peaceful feeling it all creates.


But the trees, Mark admitted, were his favorite part of nature. Particularly the oaks.

“I consider them the greatest things on earth,” he said. “They are our friends. They’re living creatures who need nutrients and water and produce oxygen for us. They also provide us with shelter and heat — they keep us alive.”

Mark said he cuts down only dead trees to use for firewood because he considers the living trees “my brothers and sisters.”

Mark also had praise for the trees because they provide homes and protection for the birds, whose songs, Mark pointed out, were proof of God’s existence.”

Carol Hubbard reads a poem by Mary Oliver.

Carol Hubbard reads a poem by Mary Oliver.

 To support Mark’s love of nature, and particularly the trees, Marked asked Carol Hubbard to read a Mary Oliver poem from her book “Thirst.” The first verse:

“When I am among the trees,

especially the willows and the honey locust,

equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,

they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.”


Mark also read from Isaiah 55:

“For you shall go out with joy,

And be led out with peace;

The mountains and the hills

Shall break forth into singing

before you,

And all the trees of the field shall

clap their hands.”


And he also read from Psalm 96:

Let the heavens rejoice, and let

the earth be glad;

Let the sea roar, and all its


Let the field be joyful, and all that

is in it.

Then all the trees of the woods

will rejoice before the Lord.”

Mark concluded his Sunday School lesson by leading a 20-minute walk on the trails through the woods, allowing everyone to soak in all he had described and deeply admired and respected.

Thank you, Mark!



Categories: General