Spring Equinox

A balancing point
Light emerges from the dark
Blossoming new life

(c) Emma Major



Building our 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


Blossoming New Life

Read “Prayer/Walk” poem by Malcolm Guite and the invite people to walk and find signs of Blossoming new life.

A hidden path that starts at a dead end,
Old ways, renewed by walking with a friend,
And crossing places taken hand in hand,

The passages where nothing need be said,
With bruised and scented sweetness underfoot
And unexpected birdsong overhead,

The sleeping life beneath a dark-mouthed burrow,
The rooted secrets rustling in a hedgerow,
The land’s long memory in ridge and furrow,

A track once beaten and now overgrown
With complex textures, every kind of green,
Land- and cloud-scape melting into one,

The rich meandering of streams at play,
A setting out to find oneself astray,
And coming home at dusk a different way.



Light in the Dark

Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

John 8:12
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”


I have a couple of options for how you might like to respond to these bible passages.
You can stay here in the circle and pray, perhaps for light into the dark places in the world
You can take photos of light in dark places around the garden – where can you capture a photo of light?
You can create a picture from the things you find around the garden eg fallen sticks, leaves, seeds etc. Please don’t pull up whole flowers but perhaps a petal would be OK.


Balance
Let’s settle ourselves, walking or sitting or even laying down if you’d like. Breathe deeply and feel yourself balanced as part of the whole world.
What can you see, hear, touch, smell?


Blessing
(By Emma Major)


As spring blossoms
May you slowly emerge
Balancing the dark and light
In your body and soul, heart and mind
Knowing you are never alone
God is with you, shining a light of hope
To guide you
As you make your way
Slowly, Calmly, Peacefully home
Amen

Autumn Equinox – rebalancing

These are the leaders notes for our Oakwood Forest Church gathering on Saturday 25th September 2021. We held our gathering at the end of the Great big green week fair at St Nicolas and were blessed to have Bishop Olivia with us.

4pm Building our Circle by April

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


415pm Introduction by Emma

Busy September 

End of lockdowns

Have we unintentionally wound ourselves up with new busyness? 

What is the natural world telling us?

Does nature rush?

Do the trees stress?

Do the squirrels have to do lists?

Does nature rest?

Well yes…..

Summer has passed and now we are moving into autumn 

There’s a change of pace

The world around us is getting ready for a time of rest

I need to make as much time for rest, as for busyness

How can we make time in our lives for rest and peace?

I make time to be in nature, even if it’s just my garden, to be still and notice the world around me

420pm Activity – Explore with our Senses

What can we notice which our five senses?  

What is speaking to us?  


430pm Bible reading and poem

Summer has passed and now we are moving into autumn 

This is the balancing point of the year, the equinox where day and night are of equal length

The mornings are misty

Days are cooler

Evenings are shorter 

The birds start migrating

There are changes, nature is rebalancing 

How can we rebalance?


440pm Activity- balancing

In groups let’s ‘play’ with scales balancing twigs, leaves etc.  

what do we notice?


450pm Plant daffodils

A reminder of the importance of rest

We are placing the bulbs into the ground

To rest

To wait

Hidden but safe

Dormant but ready

When we return to the garden in the late winter we will watch the garden change

Watch the daffodils grow and flower

There are times for rest

And other times for action

We must balance them

NEED: daffodil bulbs, trowels, prepared ground


5pm Blessing from +Olivia

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.