A “FOREST church” that offers bat walks and river-dipping to help people to connect with nature has seen its numbers grow to match the existing village church’s congregation.
Forest Church is run by St Mark’s, Dolphinholme, in Lancashire, but it never meets inside the church. Whatever the weather, the group meet and explore nature together. The regular congregation has now grown to more than 20: the same number as the congregation inside the church.
The Vicar, the Revd Cindy Rigney, said that Forest Church appealed to people who had moved to the area for the beauty of the landscape, but who had no church background.
“It’s a beautiful part of the world here, and many people move here for that. I started thinking: how do we connect with these people who have no grounding in the church but love the beauty of God’s creation?”
She searched the internet for “forest church”, and discovered a movement that connects people to God through nature.
With the help of a “vision champion” from the diocese, Jackie Hough, the group meets once a month on a Saturday, and the meeting starts with prayer and a reading before going into the countryside. Members of the congregation are all new to church, and it includes many families.
Although all are encouraged to come to the regular family service, Ms Rigney said that there was no expectation that the congregation from Forest Church would come to regular church.
Ms Hough said: “My favourite quote, that to me summarises the ethos behind our Forest Church, is from the naturalist John Muir, who said: ‘I’d rather be in the mountains thinking about God, than in church thinking about the mountains.’
“For me, Forest Church is all about encouraging people to engage more with nature and with each other; to stop for a moment and really look at something.”
The diocese’s children team has created resources to enable any church to hold five forest-church sessions. It can be downloaded, free, from their website: www.bdeducation.org.uk.