In the grounds of St. Thomas the Apostle Church, in the beautiful village of Stanhope, Country Durham, in the North East of England, stands this grand fossilised tree stump, with a plaque that reads:
Fossil Tree Sigillaria SP
This great tree grew in a forest of the middle carboniferous period (about 250 million years ago) near Edmundbyers Cross, now 1550 feet above sea level.
The tree was brought to Stanhope and erected here in 1962 by Mr. J G Beaston.
Not only is Stanhope’s Sigillaria a truly amazing relic from our planet’s ancient past, but that it stands in the grounds of a church whose patron, Saint Thomas, was noted for his doubting in the resurrection of Christ, is a poignant reminder that not all Christians are young-Earth creationists, wilfully in denial of the facts.
For example, when this tree was still growing, Tetrapods, the common ancestor of all modern amphibians, walked alongside other freshwater and lagoon invertebrates, bivalve molluscs and crustaceans.
That we can absolutely categorically without question prove that this is true, not just from the fossil record, but from the entirely independent evidence contained in the genes which we humans have in common with those simpler forms of life, as they themselves do with all life on Earth, says everything you could want to say about the weight of evidence which is stacked up against those who simply wish that supernatural causation showed even the slightest thumbprint in the forensics of truth.
But what struck me most, as I stood in the formidable presence of this ancient signal from our Earth’s past was the lack of a legalese disclaimer, at the foot of the inscription. No pandering to the deluded infinitesimally small minority, who might attend the church believing in a literal interpretation of scripture, which insists there is a contradiction inherent in anything which predates the accumulated ages of the prophets in the old testament.
Instead, just an honest description of what the tree tells us about time and space and our feeble first steps into a true understanding of not just Earth, but the whole universe.