Forum explores ‘outdoor worship’

With no mains water or electricity, Wychling church was the ideal venue to think about the resources we use.

13 June 2017

Meeting God in Nature, as Environment Forum explores ‘outdoor worship’

A wet and windy day in June did not deter those attending the recent Environment Forum on the theme of Outdoor Worship at St. Margaret’s Church in Wychling.  Despite being one of the most remote churches in the Diocese, thanks to vicar Rev Richard Birch and Church Warden Paula Jardine Rose and helpers, it became a haven of warmth, welcome and hospitality for those braving the elements.

With no mains water or electricity, and only one tent covered compostable toilet, Paula said that Wychling church was the ideal venue to get people thinking about the resources they use. It’s creativity with worship also made it particularly apt; with only six people on the electoral roll the church’s future has been in jeopardy, but a monthly ‘wild church’ and evensong with medieval instruments has been offering signs of hope.

Leading the session were Sam and Sara Hargreaves from EngageWorship, an organisation which looks to resource local churches for creative, innovative and world-changing worship. They spoke about the ‘park church’ they run in Luton and the principles that underpin it, which can be adapted to any context or mix of people and ages.

They suggest that taking worship outside has practical and ecological benefits – research indicates that children, and even adults, focus better when outside, and once ‘in the great outdoors’, you can’t help but want to take a bit more care of it, because as Sam notes: “Who wants to pray next to a crisp packet?”

Sara also says it has the ability to offer people a new perspective on God’s creation:  “Each time you go outside something is different, whether it is the weather, the flowers, or the people you meet.” Sam adds: “You can even think of Creation as the second book of God. Just as the Bible tells us about God in words, the world He has made also speaks to us about Him.”

Taking advantage of a break in the clouds, the group went outdoors to put theory into practice. Taking time to pay attention to nature, they reflected on death that’s brings new life by looking at examples of dead wood found on the ground.  The distinct rings on tree stumps were examined and compared to the distinct events in one’s own life. Psalms were recited, and stories and prayers were shared for one another.

The Archdeacon of Maidstone Stephen Taylor, says that the success of the day is a sign that there is a real move within the Diocese to take commitment to the Environment seriously: “This has been a really positive day. Each of these Environment Forums is about inspiring and challenging us to think about the diverse ways concern for Creation can be brought into our church life.
“As we look forward to our ongoing engagement with the Environment, I would encourage as many churches as possible to sign-up to the Eco Church initiative. It offers a simple, online way for churches to start their own eco-journey, and offers the support needed as we endeavour to become an Eco Diocese.”

More resources can be found on the Environment pages of the Diocesan website. To be kept up-to-date with future forums please contact Karen Adams on kadams@diocant.org

More Outdoor Worship resources from EngageWorship: