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Fresh service in the forest

by
12 June 2008

by Bill Bowder

HAY FEVER sufferers at St Peter’s-in-the-Forest, Walthamstow, in Essex, could be stuck in church on Sundays next month, while the rest of the congregation gathers in a nearby glade in Epping Forest. But the Vicar, the Revd Steven Saxby, who hopes to celebrate among the trees and wildlife, said he had made special arrangements for those who could not, or did not, wish to worship outside.

“We asked the congregation for its reactions. . . Some said they would stay inside the church building. We can take communion to them.”

The last time Mr Saxby conducted a service outdoors, new visitors were standing on the edges of the service. “They would not have come if we were in the church building. I haven’t had anybody heckle yet, but I suppose it would be an interactive sermon if they did.”

The Archdeacon of West Ham, the Ven. Elwin Cockett, said on Tuesday that the setting was “wonderfully idyllic. The congregation will be greatly blessed.” He sees it as a Fresh Expression of the Church’s ministry.

A spokeswoman for the City of London, which owns Epping Forest, and from which Mr Saxby had to obtain a licence, said: “Various religious events have been held at Epping Forest, and we welcome application of licences from everyone.”

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