Worshipping indoors in large groups will be risky for some time due to COVID-19. Now is a good time time to explore worshipping outdoors in smaller groups with the rest of creation–if permitted in your area. From the forest churches of England to Holy Hikes® in the Episcopalian tradition to the Wild Church Network across North America, outdoor worship has been flourishing during the past five years. Below are some resources that have laid groundwork for us:
What is this style of worship?
What Makes a Wild Church a Church? What makes a Wild Church Wild?
This article on the Wild Church Network website explains how “wild churches” are different from “outdoor services.”
Forest Church: A Field Guide to a Spiritual Connection with Nature by Bruce Stanley
Stanley’s book is one of the most frequently cited sources. It provides a good overview of the movement and lot of practical help on how to spend time in nature. Those seeking a specifically Christian experience will want to draw on other resources as well.
Why do it?
This article in Living Lutheran describes the Holy Hike movement and interviews people excited about it.
Healing the Earth Through Awe and Wonder (short video) In May 2020, MCCN asked church leaders to identify what they saw as the most important response to the environmental crisis. Connie Heppner Mueller of Seeds Church in Altona, Man., said that the most important task was to fall in love with our local places and to experience awe and wonder there.
How do I do it?
A forest church booklet from the Diocese of Gloucester offers this advice:”Simple is good…[D]on’t over-organize. Just provide a framework and trust God working in and through nature.”
Wild Church Communion Liturgy
Katerina Friesen, who leads a church that meets under an oak tree along the San Joaquin River, offers the group’s communion liturgy.
Wild Church: A Conversation with Wendy Janzen
This interview from the Living Lightly Podcast is an excellent introduction to what can happen when human worship joins the rest of creation. Wendy pastors at St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, Ont. and also leads the Burning Bush Forest Church, a community that meets monthly in nature.
Vernal pools in Appalachia
Steven David Johnson–a conservation photographer–is not writing about church services, but in this article from The Mennonite, he does describe the grace-filled experience of giving the natural world your undivided attention.
Are there outdoor churches with a connection to MCCN?
At least three:
- Burning Bush Forest Church, St. Jacobs, Ont.
- Shenandoah Valley Church of the Wild, Virginia
- Wild Church Fresno, San Joaquin River, Calif.
Additional Worship Resources
These are not specifically crafted for outdoor use, but have a lot of relevant material.
Season of Creation Worship Resources
A lectionary and liturgies for a September worship series on God the Creator and creation.
God’s Good Earth: Praise and Prayer for Creation by Anne and Jeffery Rowthorn, Liturgical Press.
A collection of 52 worship services on creation-related themes and a wealth of readings, prayers, litanies and inspiration.