Worship on the wild side
Charlie Houlder-Moat, Trainee Reader, describes how her passion for the outdoors has combined with facilitating families to worship outdoors.
Since a young age, I have always been drawn to nature and most of my jobs have represented this passion: outdoor activities instructor to a forest ranger. I am now combining my love of the outdoors with my ministry at RAF Marham Chaplaincy to deliver what we call “Worship in the Woods”. However, it comes under many other names such as Wild Church, Forest Church and even Mossy Church!
Although a contemporary movement, it has its roots in the tradition of Christian spirituality and is about inviting God to speak through the exploration of the natural world.
One of the families that regularly attend has appreciated the activity: “Having a 5-year-old son who never sits still in church, he loves it as he gets to go around ‘helping’. On a personal level, I find the spiritual headspace offered more relaxing than a service indoors.”
Another family enjoyed getting away from screens, in addition to cooking over the fire! “In a world where it is tempting to let kids sit in front of their electronic devices, it is great to be able to worship in the outdoors.
“You can see their wonder reawakening as they disappear off to explore the woods and look for signs of God’s providence. An interesting bug under some bark on the ground, the colour and texture of a leaf, the chance to build with bits of wood, and even the variations in the weather – all of these speak richly about our Creator. Our children also love anything with fire, and in a risk-averse culture it is brilliant to see them toasting marshmallows or enjoying hot dogs.”
I use nature connection activities to engage families and individuals with their faith: “It has allowed us as a family to explore and appreciate our faith in a different light, engaging our three-year-old, whilst enjoying the brisk fresh air of Norfolk.”
Licensed Reader, Fiona Tibbitt has just launched Forest Church at Aylsham. I asked her what she appreciates about it: “I’ve always loved being outside as it has been easy to see the wonders of God’s creation. Not just the mountain vistas or dramatic sunsets but the cobweb filled with frost, and the robin sharing the garden.
“I can feel God’s Holy Spirit fill me when I’m out in the fresh air and that is something I would like to share with others. I am really excited to be able to bring a new perspective to people’s lives, help them to feel grounded in nature and see God’s grace in the world around them.”
I asked Fiona how she got involved: “I attended a few Forest Church sessions and found them to be an engaging way to bring in all of the family. I have spent time reading and researching while training to be a Reader so I was delighted when our curate, the Revd Jack Branford, offered me the opportunity to lead four sessions at Blickling Church.”
If your imagination has been sparked then all you need is a group of people and some nature! Your style of Wild Church can be unique. There isn’t a prescribed model. Go wild!
Contact Charlie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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