A Forest Church Workshop
Judith Allinson attended a Forest Church workshop in October, held in Skipton, run by Bruce Stanley, for people interested in either running a Forest Church event or finding out more. She writes:
Maybe you, like me, have done some “Forest Church type activities” before. (See my table of “Outdoor Activities Nature Awareness Activities I have enjoyed” below)
And maybe you, like me, would be a bit apprehensive that it would be too “Pagan”.
Well it seems individual Forest Church groups vary a lot, and the emphasis of each depends on what the leaders and core group make it. Bruce had invited Revd Steve Hollinghurst to give us a short talk/answer questions on the more pagan aspects which was helpful
It is a vast subject – too wide to fit into one blogpost. But you can read lots on his website
| Outdoor Appreciation/ Nature Awareness and Experiences- by oneself or with a group of people Maybe you have walked on top of a mountain or through an avenue of trees and felt closer to God. |
Earth Education (Steve van Matre) Bird watching/ Badger watching / Otter watching (just somewhere in nature where you have to be still and watch..)Taking children or old people or physically challenged people out into nature
Doing a quality activity and helping others enjoy it is (in my view) a way of worshipping and saying thank you to God. Hence natural history activities can fall into this category.
I quote from the Forest Church website: (which Bruce Stanley runs)
Forest Church is a fresh expression of church drawing on much older traditions when sacred places and practices were outside – but it is also drawing on contemporary research that highlights the benefits of spending time with nature in wild places.
Forest Church isn’t just normal church happening outside, instead it attempts to participate with creation. And it isn’t just a fellowship group doing an outside activity, we aim to learn, worship, meditate, pray and practice with the trees, at the spring, along the shore….
You can see many more pictures and read about our day in more detail on my blog There were thirteen people who attended the course in Skipton we were mostly from Anglican or Methodist churches.
I suggested some activities which I have taken part in the past (and thoroughly recommend, as in the table) and which I would think are forest church related. Other people gave different suggestions, and Bruce generally said yes, that would be included.
Meanwhile.. I have just discovered this article written by Christine Miles for the Church Times “If you kneel down in the woods today” .. and it is so good I would refer you to it. It expresses much of what I learned. It is written from a Christian/ Church Times point of view, and similar to mine
Her article was written exactly a year ago when there were about six Forest Church groups. Now there are about fourteen – plus several similar groups that have not affiliated.
The groups vary in their activities. And in the people who come. For example one group I was told is about one third Christian and one third atheist and one third Pagan.
This is a picture of us at the entrance of Skipton Castle Woods.
At the entrance Bruce stopped. He explained how it is good to have a special pause/ ritual/ gathering together before entering the area. While he talked a robin hopped on the wall beside us
We stopped and explored our senses. Here I have been given some “Rosehip leather” to taste.
At lunchtime we returned to base to discuss some of our activities. Steve Hollinghust had been invited to come and answer our questions on some Pagan / Druid activities (different to New Age, he said.)
One person who was thinking of trying out a Forest Church event was a bit apprehensive about his lack of knowledge. We were all impressed by Bruce’s knowledge of “bushcraft” and landscape interpretation. Well I was.
Above: Tea ceremony
One person set up a Forest Church Event based on Orienteering the following week.
I recommend the activities I have taken part in before (in the table). These do not include the same amount of ritual as a forest church would . I sometimes wish I could include more of them on occasions in my local church. But I am aware that most people like to be inside in the warm.