Celebrating Samhain

Last Saturday 16 of us gathered at St Nicolas Church Community Garden to celebrate Samhain.

Samhain – the threshold into winter

Building the circle

East: God of East, the sunrise and breath of life, the very air we breathe

West: God of the West, cool refreshing rains refreshing dry and thirsty lands

South: God of fire and warmth, bringing abundance, fanning the flames of love

North: God of the rich dark earth where seeds of life lie buried and dormant

Air, water, fire and Earth, we build our circle of our seasons, the circle of our lives, the circle of God around us and within us

Introduction

There is a sense of endings, of gathering darkness, a kind of doorway to the dark half of the year.  As a symbol of that preparation for winter, we light a fire which we can all share in – in years gone by, people would light their house fires from a communal fire, but I am not suggesting you take a flaming branch home with you!

As well as a symbol, of course bonfires are also used to burn the things which need to be discarded.  Leaves which were once green and lush and full of nutrients for the trees, well the trees have taken those good things into themselves, and as they prepare for winter, they can now shed those leaves, those leaves have served their purpose, and now are ready to return to the earth again. These is a celebration of all that they have contributed – look at the vibrancy of their colours, the accumulation of experience and offering. I invite you to find something which has served the plant world well, breathing in CO2, providing nutrients to the tree, the fruits which have fed animals, and given us beauty.  We can spend sometime making a pattern, with members of your household, or by socially distancing circles spirals,  circles are the symbol of the unity of life, the wholeness of creation, spirals, the journey towards the centre

Reading: Give me a candle of the Spirit, O God, as I go down into the deeps of my being. Show me the hidden things, the creatures of my dreams, the storehouse of forgotten memories and hurts. Take me down to the spring of my life, and tell me my nature and my name. Give me freedom to grow, so that I may become that self, the seed of which You planted in me at my making. Out of the depths I cry to You…   (George Appleton)

Gathering and Creating Art

Everyone was invited to visit the art pieces which were created, here are some photos that were taken.

Butterfly created from leaves
Natural materials Mandala
A heart of leaves
Nature’s trinity
A natural house
Enjoying the creations

What has served you well, what may have brought you joy?

Perhaps things that happened in the past, or habits that you got into, things that you did or had, perhaps people or relationships which were valuable, rewarding, which gave great satisfaction or joy even, needed at the time, but now may need to be let go of, to be laid down and put aside. We can honour what has gone before, as we prepare to submit them to the flames

Everyone selected a leaf or a found item that represented something they wanted to honour. We then gathered round the fire again.

The fire pit and table

Reading from Ecclesiastes

3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by. 

People were then invited to go one at a time to the fire and throw the leaf into the pit and share if they wanted to

Prayer

Hallowed One you have graced me with knowing

And you are present in my unknowing.

Be with me in all the in-between places

Where I do not know what creeps in the shadows,

The past that haunts and the future that frightens.

Let my heart’s aim to be true in the daily ordinary uncertainty

For it is from this place that I must live and choose and trust.

Settle us in peace as we go out separate ways this night

Access Forest Church Accessibility Assessment

Front page of accessibility assessment

Emma and Catherine have been working hard over the last few months to create an Access Forest Church proforma for accessibility assessments. This document is designed to help forest church leaders understand some of the access issues people might encounter, identify which of these can be minimised or avoided and help them provide useful information to those who might attend gatherings.

We hope this is useful for forest church leaders and also for those with access needs who wish to attend gatherings but aren’t sure how accessible they will be.

This is available as a free download, but please credit Emma and Catherine for the writing of this and provide any feedback which might be helpful

For more information about Access Forest Church please like the Facebook page or join our Facebook group

Oakwood Forest Church – Samhain

As the night draw in and the leaves fall from the trees we thank the world for its blessings through the summer and start to prepare for the stillness of Winter.
Everyone is welcome as ee gather round a fire together and create art with the blessings of autumn.

We are meeting for the second time this Autumn to celebrate Samhain – Winter’s Arrival on Saturday 24th October at 4pm

Location:
Community Garden
St Nicolas Church Earley Sutcliffe Avenue. RG6 7JN
In order to ensure we are minimising the risks associated with Covid19 we are currently meeting in the community garden at St Nicolas Church on Sutcliffe Avenue in Earley. RG6 7JN.


We will stay in our households and keep appropriate distance at all times.
We will be meeting whatever the weather, come dressed appropriately.
Please bring something to sit on.
Dogs on leads are welcome.

We have completed an accessibility assessment for our gathering which you can see summarised below. In summary: the location and session itself are fully accessible. We hope this information helps you understand how accessible our gathering will be. Please contact us if you have any questions.

Oakwood Gathering Again

Do you find it easier to be with God when you’re in the natural world? Do you care about the environment locally and globally? Would you like to join others who feel the same? Then Oakwood Forest Church is for you.

We have missed gathering as Forest Church in person and are looking forward to enjoying God’s creation together again. We have three Oakwood Forest Church gatherings planned this Autumn/ Winter.

oakwood fc poster 2020

Lammas (Harvest) on Saturday 5th September at 2pm
Samhain (Winter’s Arrival) on Saturday 24th October at 2pm
Coming of the Light on Saturday 2nd January 2021 at 7am

Location:
Community Garden
St Nicolas Church Earley, Sutcliffe Avenue. RG6 7JN

In order to ensure we are minimising the risks associated with Covid19 we are currently meeting in the community garden at St Nicolas Church Earley. RG6 7JN.
We will stay in our households and keep appropriate distance at all times.
We will be meeting whatever the weather, come dressed appropriately.
Dogs on leads are welcome.

Access Forest Church: Tips for Wheelchair Access

As a powered wheelchair user I have to do A LOT of research about every place I visit; whether that’s a town, a museum, a nature reserve or the coast.

Many nature reserves have improved their accessibility over the last ten years which has made it much easier for wheelchair users to experience the natural world, but even then we need to research the facts before we head out.

As a forest church leader you can help wheelchair users by providing information about the accessibility of your location and details of routes you will use.

There are five key access issues which are important to provide information about:

  1. Parking
    Is there disabled parking?
    Does that car park have a solid surface? (gravel is impossible for wheelchairs)
  2. Facilities
    Are there wheelchair accessible toilets?
  3. Step free access
    Even one small step is impossible for a powerchair user though many manual chair users can cope ok with a very small step
  4. Terrain
    What is the terrain like?
    Wheelchairs rely on the power of the user, pusher or motor; the terrain is a huge factor in what power is required and is therefore a limiting factor.

Terrain can be defined in the following categories:
Easy

  • Pavement
  • Tarmac
  • Boardwalks

Medium

  • Short grass
  • Sturdy woodland paths
  • Compacted gravel or sand

Hard

  • Longer grass or fields
  • Woodland paths
  • Bridleways
  • Dried mud

Impossible

  • Sand
  • Wet mud
  • Loose Gravel
  1. Gradient
    What about the gradient?
    Downhill: It is hard to explain just how vulnerable it feels to be going down a steep slope facing forwards in a wheelchair, you can easily feel like you are going to fall out.

Uphill: it’s all about how much power is required which limits access

Transverse: the camber of any path can have a huge impact on accessibility for wheelchair users.

For example the blind bumps which are essential at road crossings for those with sight loss are often on drop curbs – trying to continue along a pavement where there is a dropped curb gradient is hard enough, where the blind bumps are also in place it can send wheelchairs straight into the road.

Relocate this example onto woodland paths with cambers and tree roots or a coastal path with lose gravel and stones and you get an idea of how difficult access can be in a wheelchair.

Gradient can be defined in the following categories:
Mostly flat

  • Pavements
  • Boardwalks
  • Beachfronts
  • Canal paths

A few ups and downs

  • Woodland paths
  • Cambers

Quite steep in places

  • Hillsides
  • Mountain paths
  • Paths with tree roots

At most locations it should be possible to provide an alternative route for those who use wheelchairs.
Or, even better… provide an accessible main route with an alternative route for the more adventurous.

Access Forest Church: Experience disconnection

This article was written today for Access Forest Church. Here is an exercise which might help you assess the accessibility of your forest church session.

I invite you to try and experience what this disconnection from nature feels like with four simple exercises. Each time ask yourself:

  • how you feel in yourself (eg frustration? anger? disappointment?);
  • how you feel about the environment you’re in (disconnected or connected?)
  • how you could change forest church sessions, worship, socials and events you lead to ensure everyone can take part?

Exercises:
A) mobility constrained
Sit on a chair on a path, you are not allowed to move from this chair. Find a representation of God’s creation.

B) visually impaired
Put on a blind fold of some sort. Find a representation of God’s creational beauty.

C) hearing impaired
Put on ear muffs or headphones. Find a representation of God’s voice.

D) depressed or anxious
There’s no way of mimicking this; but perhaps think of a time you have felt depressed or anxious… Find a representation of God’s peace.

You don’t need to find solutions for every accessibility issue at every session, but if you can tell people what barriers to access exist then you are helping people know whether they can attend.

If you want to go further, you can provide ways in which people can engage with your session alternatively if they can’t physically attend. I’m going to write about that more in the weeks to come.

Meditation on a Tree

This is the second video I created from the huge number of photos and videos people sent me in response to my request to try and bring nature connection to those people who can’t get out into nature because of the lockdown.

Take one tree
Doesn’t need to be a big tree
As long as you can comfortably
Lie down underneath

Allow the wonder of nature
To relax you completely
It’s time to do your duty
And breathe….. deeply

What can you sense
In amongst the tree?
Any birds making nests?
Caterpillars eating leaves?

At first it might seem empty
Nothing going on
Look a little deeper
You’ll discover quite a throng

A pigeon taking flight
Disturbs the canopy
What’s that taking a wander?
A massive bumblebee

Rain showers start
The tree becomes a roof
Droplets follow paths
Ancient to the roots

Every sense engaged
A day of many pleasures
Inspired by the world’s
Amazing varied creatures

As you pause for this time
Relaxing within nature
Let your mind dream
Of a world a little better

Where time in the wild
Isn’t a ‘sometimes’ treat
But something to enjoy
Every day of every week

When we emerge again
Let’s fully be connected
To each other, the world
Hope and love projected

Worshipping with Creation

Worshipping with Creation; Caring for Creation. A Pechakucha.

Knowing that so many of us aren’t able to get out into nature due to the lockdown or shielding I put a shout out on Facebook.  Has anyone got any videos or photos of their daily exercise which I could use to put together a video for those who are stuck at home.

I was overwhelmed with people wanting to help and this is the first of two videos I have created.  This format is a Pechakucha – a japanese form of presentation with a slide change every 10 seconds.

Worshipping with Creation

Explore seasons
Explore interactions
Springing
Blooming
Withering
Hibernating
Restore connection
Restore stillness
Quivering
Wondering
Exploring
Reflecting
Experience change
Experience growth
Yearning
Journeying
Learning
Living
Caring for creation

Poem written by Emma Major
Photos taken by people around the UK who love nature, find God in creation, are part of forest church or just find peace connecting with nature.

May 2018: hope of creation

What a wonderful afternoon celebrating Pentecost by finding renewed life in nature and talking about the holy spirit at work in our lives.

Here are a few photos of rocks, which were then decorated and hidden; an amazing staff as a monument to nature; the intense greens of the reserve admired by Sarah; and Mike with the flower decorations made by Liz in the background.

Our Bible readings, reflections and prayers from today are included below.

Acts 2: 1-4 (NIV)
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

I wonder…. Did the holy spirit just come upon the people? Or do this outpouring of God also invigorate the animals and plants of creation?

XXX

Then later in his letter to the Romans Paul speaks of the God of creation; about the hope in the world given by the holy spirit.

Romans 15:13 (Message): “Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!”

I wonder… The holy spirit came to empower the disciples and to empower us all. But what are we empowered to do? How does this relate to caring for creation?

XXX

Pentecost prayer in a Celtic tradition:
May the Gifts of the Holy Spirit bring fire to the earth so that the presence of God may be seen
in a new light,
in new places,
in new ways.
May our own hearts burst into flame so that no obstacle,
no matter how great,
ever obstructs the message of the God within each of us.
May we come to trust
the Word of God in our heart, to speak it with courage, to follow it faithfully and to fan it to flame in others.
May the Jesus
who filled everyone
with his Holy Spirit
fill the world and the church with new respect
for everyone’s power and presence.
Give me, Great God,
a sense of the Breath of Spirit within me as I…
(State the intention in your own life at this time for which you are praying.)
Amen.