Outstanding Urban Forest Preservation - Henderson Hills Baptist Church
The prayer walk through the trees on Henderson Hills Baptist Church's campus.
At the northeast corner of I35 and E 15th St, most people have probably noticed the sign set up on the hill for Henderson Hills Baptist Church. Upon a first venture down the church’s entrance road, one would be surprised by the vast size of the campus. The buildings for this ministry are almost completely obscured by cross timbers forest, providing a visually pleasing buffer from I35 and creating a natural oasis for church members. Tucked into the trees, the church is surrounded by large stands of preserved forest, in addition to individual trees that were retained around the buildings themselves and throughout the parking areas.
Henderson Hills Baptist Church bought the 109 acres of undisturbed cross timbers forest where their campus now sits in the summer of 1998. Seeing the value in this natural landscape, planners took care in considering the trees as part of the construction and preserving as many of them as possible. A church member personally walked the site to mark trees they saw value in keeping. Kevin Nicolin, Pastor of Support Ministries remembers, “One of the overarching goals of the project was to create a peaceful and beautiful ‘pastoral setting’ among the trees where people could encounter God and enjoy his creation. A major part of this was to surround the campus with trees.” The project was completed in 2004, and in addition to enjoyment of the preserved forest, people have the joy of observing wildlife, native grasses, and a variety of new landscaping such as flowering plants and evergreens. A large courtyard provides a place for outdoor services and fellowship where people can enjoy the natural setting around them.
In 2008 two additional buildings were added to the campus, continuing the vision of providing “a serene setting among the trees to enhance ministry,” as described by Nicolin. The church buildings have incorporated large windows with views of the trees, in addition to multiple decks for outdoor meetings and peaceful reflection. One of the new buildings, the Ministries of Jesus Clinic, provides wellness assistance including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual care. Set in the trees and surrounded by preservation in the parking areas as well, this clinic surely benefits from the impacts of trees which have been shown to help people heal faster from illness and to reduce stress and foster a sense of greater personal well being.
Most recently in 2013, Henderson Hills Baptist Church created a “prayer walk”, which winds through a manicured stand of native oaks with large boulders along the way. Nicolin says, “The path begins from a water feature at the south end of the grove and curves through the trees to a large cross at the north end. Along the way are areas to stop, sit, and pray. It’s the trees that make it a very special place to meet with God.”
It is the honor of the Urban Forestry Commission to present Henderson Hills Baptist Church with an Edmond E-Tree Award in 2014 for Outstanding Urban Forest Preservation. This project is a great example of the values of trees that may be experienced through careful stewardship of our local ecosystems and how experiencing nature may improve quality of life.