It has been a staple in the community for more than 300 years, but a Durham congregation is being forced to say goodbye to a popular tree.
It may look just like any other tree, but it’s not.
"It's grown up with the people of Durham and been part of their lives,” said Reverend Jeanette Hicks, of the United Churches of Durham.
The Copper Beech was planted in the early 1700s, and it was brought over from England.
Three centuries later, the trunk now stands at more than 6 feet wide.
What the tree has meant to parishioners of the United Churches of Durham is immeasurable.
"The tree is extremely important to our church and to the community. The tree has witnessed events from weddings to baptisms,” said Rick Huntley, of Durham.
Last Monday, a major limb fell off the tree, crashing into a light post below.
It was Hicks’ first week with the church.
"The first thought was just lots of gratitude that no one was hurt. No one was injured,” Hicks said.
While it was an ominous sign, there were many prayers the tree could be saved. But for safety reasons, local arborists told church officials the historic tree will have to be cut down.
"Now the liability is too great and the tree is telling us her days are numbered,” Hicks said.
While the church bells will continue to toll here, the tree will be cut down sometime next month.
The hope is to keep the tree alive in a different way, using it potentially for furniture and other commemorative items.
“We're sure hoping the many pieces of wood that come from the tree will be able to be made into momentos of some sort,” Huntley said.
It is unclear what the space will be used for once the tree is taken down.
If you’d like to help the church with the costs, click here.
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