Diocese of Portsmouth

    Families connect God and nature in Wild Church

    Vision and Strategy
    21 May 2021

    DOZENS of families were given a chance to connect God and nature as a brand new worshipping community was launched.

    ‘Wild Church’ is the name given to a monthly get-together of parents and children in the churchyard at St James Church, Emsworth. It’s a Sunday afternoon of outdoor activities that includes a chance for families to explore the beauty of nature and get creative.

    It has been organised by pioneer minister the Rev Jo Northey, who launched the first Wild Church with the chance to plant flowers in the garden, roast marshmallows and hear from the Bible about God’s care for creation.

    She said: “I’ve found a great sense of God’s presence and peace outdoors. When all is chaos around, it’s helpful to stand watching the sunset, to gaze up at an ancient tree, or to hear the birds singing loudly when we have been silenced in the church so long.

    “As we see nature renewing itself, it brings us hope. Where I see a tree stump cut down and yet now several new trees grow up from the base, I am reminded that God will always make a way. It may look and feel different and yet it is the same God that gives the growth.

    “We created Wild Church in response to this building sense of restlessness to engage outdoors and the hunger locally for forest schools and to engage with our natural world. In our first session, we looked at God’s creation in Psalm 8, reading and decorating the words with colour from flowers with a good hammer smash! We lit fire as a symbol of God’s spirit with us and tasted his goodness in roasted marshmallows.

    “We planted in the gardens to show our love and care for the world, and took home a plant to nurture too. There was a beautiful, relaxed atmosphere, excited children and families who had never been to any of our things before came to explore, picnic and experience a little more of what it is to be in God’s family. One mum said that this was the first time her children have come willingly, engaged and not complained at all about church.”

    Families flocked to the grounds of St James Church for 'Wild Church'
    Crushing flowers onto a Bible passage using a mallet
    There was the chance for parents and children to plant flowers

    “As we gather, think, create, walk and eat together, I pray it will help us to bring new families to see God’s imprint in the world around us and respond to his call of love. That we would be able to forge community that helps people seize the opportunity to discover faith in a way they had never expected.”

    Wild Church will meet monthly, hopefully at 4pm on the third Sunday of each month. Details can be found on their Facebook page or their website.

    St James

    North Street, Emsworth, PO10 7DJ

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