Worship on the wild side

Published on: 11 March 2020

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 ubhyqre-zbngp@zrgubqvfgpuhepu.bet.hx

A Facebook community group exists to share ideas and encouragement:


This article is from...

Articles in this issue...

Pilgrimage in Lapland

Last August, as part of the "sharing of experiences", six people were invited to join in a pilgrimage along the Dag Hammarskjold Way which lies 250 km within the Arctic Circle, further cementing the link between the Diocese of Norwich and the Diocese of Luleå in the far north of Sweden. Steve Williamson shares their journey.


Active learning: Bible, sports, action!

Headteacher Helen Watson describes how Lyng Church of England Primary School has been engaging in Active RE.


Encountering God on the Broads

The Revd Graham Kirk-Spriggs explains how a local sailing holiday transformed his faith journey.


And I would walk 500 miles

On 12 September 2019, Amanda Maundrell set out to walk the 500 miles of the ancient pilgrimage route of “El Camino Frances” across northern Spain, alone. Here she shares her story of why she undertook this challenge and the impact it had upon her.


Book reviews

A selection of books on the theme of sport and outdoor spirituality, reviewed by Steve Foyster.


Bringing my faith to parkrun

Roy Roberts shares his love of the organised free, weekly, 5km timed running phenomenon that is parkrun.


Walsingham Way pilgrimage path

Previous articles for The Magazine on the Norwich to Walsingham route of the Walsingham Way have presented it as an aspiration, a project for which there was much local interest and support but still no wherewithal to make it a physical reality. That situation has changed, and 2020 will see the Way as a signposted path on the ground. Canon Librarian at Norwich Cathedral, Peter Doll, gives an update.


Learning from GoodGym

An article in The Big Issue headed ‘Changemakers’ caught Susanna Gunner’s eye. It described a venture called GoodGym which, inspiringly, links exercise with social action. It doesn’t have a specifically Christian foundation, yet it resonates in powerful ways with gospel language, kingdom concepts. She was intrigued and wanted to know more.


Holiday clubs – building faith through fun

For the past 10 years, Matt Beckett has worked for the Fountain of Life Church and Kidz Klub Mid Norfolk, in Ashill and has been involved in running their annual summertime holiday club. He shares his and others' experience of organising these fun faith-filled events.


Game-changing: sports ministry

As the 2020 Olympics looms in Japan, Ruth Anderson urges us to consider the mission opportunities offered through sport and fitness.


Keep up to date

Subscribe to our eNews for a snapshot of news, events and resources, usually emailed once a fortnight

Signup to newsletter