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Outside, with full instructions

09 December 2016

Ronni Lament weighs up ideas for going wild

Creative Ideas for Wild Church: Taking all-age worship and learning outdoors
Mary Jackson and Juno Hollyhock
Canterbury Press £19.99
Church Times Bookshop £18



THIS book is fairly unusual in that it is (mainly) about worship outside of the church building, at which point I give it three cheers. It contains information regarding what you need to set in place before venturing outside, including a health-and-safety checklist, for which many will be truly grateful, and then a calendar of seasonal activities and worship accompanying each activity. There are suggestions for non-seasonal services, and for how to utilise outside space.

The activities are creative and imaginative. The authors are clearly passionate about worshipping outside, but they don’t seem to have, other than Bible quotations, a real theology underpinning our need for the outside. David Csinos’s work on spiritual styles informs us why many people need to be outside to worship with their whole being, and it is a shame that this work is not referenced. Neither is there any inclusion of the present move in (especially church) schools to create a “Spiritual Garden” for the whole community, to benefit from being outside.

The book has a strange beginning: there are 35 pages of Foreword, About this book, Introduction, About the authors, Getting started . . ., etc., which would daunt many readers before they got to Autumn and the real content. I am not sure where much of this preamble should be, but I think I would prefer it at the end rather than as hoops to run through before I can understand why I need to do this outside-worship thing.

I am torn over this book: such a good concept, and some superb activities; but then I got to the liturgies that accompany the activities, and my heart sank: they are very prescriptive, including a sermon or talk, together with the full text of the Creed and Lord’s Prayer — every time? It feels a bit like covering paper with text.

They are also highly liturgical, with few places where the participants are asked what they feel God is saying to them through the activity, or are encouraged to design the worship or be silent for a while to “be”. I would also look for more intergenerational inclusivity. To assume that only children and young people want to take part in this type of creative worship is a shame.


The Revd Ronni Lamont is Faith and Nurture Adviser for the diocese of Canterbury.

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