Forest Church at St Mary’s Church, Kings Worthy, started off during the national lockdown as series of nature and prayer trails that families and ‘bubbles’ could do together, when church on a Sunday wasn’t able to happen. The community responded so positively that the idea evolved to become a fully fledged Forest Church that now gathers in St Mary’s churchyard on the second Sunday of every month.
Over time, the group has grown so that it now attracts lots of families from the local area who don’t necessarily come on other Sundays but are engaged by the prospect of spending time outdoors (whatever the weather!) thinking about God’s creation and how we can help care for it.
Each week the theme is different, often following the church seasons, from Rogationtide, Harvest and Creationtide to Easter and Advent. This month the theme was ‘Remembering’, which was looked at creatively by thinking about how animals have to ‘remember’ where they have hidden their food stores.
Every session begins with a trail or treasure hunt around the churchyard, and there is always a craft activity and usually a food activity too, from soda bread roll making, to Epiphany cakes, to dandelion flavoured biscuits – the group even made nettle crisps and nettle scones as a way of looking at how even things we think of as ‘mean’ or ‘bad’ are all part of God’s good plan for creation.
Recently, Forest Church has also incorporated a short communion liturgy at the end, often using grapes grown by one of the group leaders which the children as a fun (and messy) activity! And each session finishes with a special Forest Church prayer with accompanying actions:
Other ideas have included: making bird feeders out of lard and pine cones, making prayer meditation bottles with baby oil and petals (and a bit of glitter!), making stick-on mosaic pictures with seeds and lentils, planting bulbs and seeds in pots, making camp fires and much more.
Here is a selection of photos from Forest Church sessions over recent months: