Oakwood Forest Church 2015

Starting On Sunday May 10th 2015 Oakwood Forest Church will be meeting four times a year on a Sunday afternoon/evening at The Interpretation Centre at Maiden Erlegh Nature Reserve.

This change has been made by the steering group for the following reasons:
1 – this makes Oakwood accessible to people of all physical abilities
2 – we will be able to use the facilities of the centre for toilets, hot drinks and focused activities
3 – the steering group will be able to lead the group better at each meeting with activities for all ages
4 – we will be supporting the vision and mission of the rangers of the nature reserve who would like to see the interpretation centre used by community groups

The schedule for the year ahead is as follows

Sunday 10th May 3-4pm He is Risen: Easter meets Pentecost
Sunday 19th July 5-6pm God, creation and families
Sunday 27th September 3-4pm Harvest, food banks and nature’s bounty
Sunday 10th January 3-4pm Epiphany: The Kings’ Journey
Sunday 20th March 3-4pm Palm Sunday; The Easter Journey to Jerusalem and Beyond

Oakwood Forest Church 2015

The cost of hiring the interpretation centre is £14.55 for 90 minutes.
We will be asking for donations at each meeting of Oakwood Forest Church to cover the cost of the hire, tea and coffee and the materials used for activities.

The Story of Oakwood Forest Church so far…

These slides were presented at the Earthing Faith Gathering in May 2014.  
The outline notes are included below but Emma has never been known for sticking to any notes and this time was no different.



Oakwood Forest Church met for the first time in November 2013. Sprouting from a visit to the New Forest Forest Church and conversations with friends from other churches in Earley. We are the sort of people who go for walks in the woods when we are trying to find some quiet time with God and so the idea of combining Church with nature was very appealing, especially in our very urban location.  The great thing about starting a forest Church is that there are no costs and no buildings to worry about. One quick conversation with the ranger of our nature reserve and another with our church insurers was all we needed to meet for the first time with everyones blessing.

So what is Oakwood Forest Church?
Oakwood Forest Church is:
– A fresh expression of church
– Non-denominational
– Open to everyone
– Christ Centered
– Part of a national network of forest churches

It’s hard to explain how Forest Church looks if you’ve never been to one of the meetings but it is best summarised as walking, exploring and praying together in God’s natural cathedral. We are a group of people, gathering to meet God and journey together.  Over the last six months we’ve had over 50 people come to one or more of the five meetings. We’ve also joined with a local church to run an Easter woodland walk which had over 150 people take part.  We have over a dozen members who don’t go to any other Church and who find God in the natural connections of the world; for them this is an opportunity to explore faith and what Jesus is all about.

Starting a forest Church may not be for everyone; but holding forest Church type events could be a really great way of linking your congregation to the natural world and the environment we are called to protect. It is also a wonderful way of meeting with people who are seeking faith and who are looking for a way of engaging with faith outside of church buildings.  The format of each Oakwood FC meeting will vary slightly; but we will start by meeting and praying together before walking and exploring for an hour in God’s presence.

The notes and slides from all the speakers at the gathering can be found at Earthing Faith

Sensing the Spirit of God

God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone
but also on trees and in the flowers and clouds and stars

Martin Luther

oakwood brook

We are made in the image of God.
Made to be in relationship with God.
Made with five distinct ways of sensing the Spirit of God.

1. Vision

Our eyes see everything and yet often they see nothing.
Slow down and stop; allow your eyes to really see.
Under your feet,
Above your head.
What do you see?
How many individual pieces of natures jigsaw can you count?
Which stands out for you?
Which takes your breath away?
Is that God showing Himself to you?


2. Hearing

Before we recognise anything else we hear the voice of our mothers.
If you stop quietly now what can you hear?
Voices?  Cars?  Trains?  Music?

Beyond the sounds what else can you hear?
Your own thoughts?
Your worries, to-do list?
Can you move them aside?

There you find God.
Can you hear Him?
In the distant bird song?
In the rustle of the trees?
In the movement of the lake?


3. Touch

Turn to face the wind.
Can you feel it on your face?  On your hands?
Is it warm or cold; fierce or gentle?

Now take your hands and pick up a leaf, stone or branch.
Close your eyes and let your fingers feel nature.
Is it smooth or rough?  Old or new?  Alive or dead?

Turn to someone else and hold hands.
How does this feel?  Awkward or easy?
What do these hands tell you about the person?
What does this tell you about God?
And what do your hands tell someone else?


4. Taste

Does anything taste as good as cold water on a hot day?
Perhaps hot tea on a cold winters day?
How about blackberries fresh from the bush?
Or carrots straight from the ground?

When did you last taste something that took your breath away?
We have lost connection between our food and our plate.
Where did your lunch come from?
How good did it taste?
Did it damage the world we live in?
Did it taste good enough for the damage it did?


5. Smell

Finally turn your attention to your nose.
Your nose can smell more than 1 trillion different smells!
How many can you smell right now?

As you walk in a spiral away from the base try and identify the odours on the air.
How many are man made?
How many come from the natural world?
Which do you like?  Which do you not?

The sense of smell is most closely linked to memory.
Is there a smell which reminds you of someone in your past?
Or a meal?  Or some other event?

Is there a smell which reminds you of God?
Perhaps a smell from a church?
or from a family meal?
or from nature?
How does it feel to sense God with you again through that memory?


God is not a being in the distance.
He is not the creator who abandoned us long ago.
God is alive and with us in The Holy Spirit.
We can See Him
Taste Him
Touch Him
Hear Him
Smell Him if we only stop and look and wait and let ourselves find Him.
Today, tomorrow, any day, every day.

Mossy Church at Oakwood Forest Church

Every meeting of Oakwood Forest Church includes some form of Mossy Church activity. The link below discusses these activities and where they’ve come from.


Interestingly this attached mossy church blog post has brought to light many other people who are doing similar activities and naming them mossy church – what better demonstration of God at work in our world.



Bluebell Woods with Jesus


This April we walked, explored and prayed about the greatest story ever told “Easter” with our friends at Brookside Church.

As we entered Oakwood thinking about the weight of the cross Jesus carried we were overwhelmed by the sheer number of bluebells in the wood.  None of us can remember seeing so many, so widespread. It felt like God was providing a blanket upon which Jesus could fall when the cross grew too heavy.

Over the last six months we’ve seen these trees shed their leaves before going inside of themselves to survive winter. Now we see new life sprouting all around; a very real sign of God in His creation and a prompt for us to play our part.


Finding Oakwood Forest Church

Oakwood Forest Church is based at Oakwood which is part of Maiden Erlgh Nature Reserve.

We meet four times a year at the Interpretation Centre at Maiden Erlegh Nature Reserve in Earley for an hour in God’s natural cathedral “worshipping in nature ” WIN. You can park at the car park at the end of Marefield, Lower Earley, Reading. RG6 3DU. Or on the side of Instow Road, alongside the Interpretation Centre RG6 5QJ


For more information about the nature reserve they have a website http://www.maidenerleghlnr.org.uk/index.html

One fabulous resource on the reserve website is the self guided walk which takes you through the varied aspects of the nature reserve.  If you can not come to an Oakwood Forest Church event then follow this link http://www.maidenerleghlnr.org.uk/walksg.htm and take a walk with God when convenient for you.

The reserve is owned and managed by Earley Town Council through their rangers; more can be found out about the council and their work at their website http://www.earley-tc.gov.uk/maidenerlegh.htm

There are some wonderful photos of Earley, it’s wildlife and the reserve at http://www.earley-tc.gov.uk/gallery1.htm

If you would like to know about environmental issues in the local area then one good port of call is the Earley Environmental Group http://www.earleyenvironmentalgroup.co.uk/Default.asp