As I've shared since returning from the Greenbelt Festival two years ago, one of the highlights for me was the prayer and worship led by various Forest Church groups, so much so I wanted to start a group in St. Albert-Edmonton. What held me back was experiencing a Forest Church gathering in its true context. After all festival and conference activities don't always translate. This past week my hope was fulfilled as Glen and I drove to a farm outside of Llangurig, Wales to join Bruce and Sarah and Mid Wales Forest Church.
It was simple but profound. We began by going for a walk in the hills, and because we were reflecting together on Autumn were invited to find a natural item that spoke to each of us personally. We took time to share with each other and then walked further and took time reflecting on the call to be in balance as we lay down under a grove of conifers.
I was caught up by the sense of deep connection as I looked up at the web of branches. I knew I was being invited to further simplify my life as Bruce invited us to ponder what helped us maintain balance as well as what threw us out of balance.
We returned to the farm to share food and drink, including teas brewed from local herbs and medicines. The magic of the Welsh evening was made complete as a few people brought out fiddles and mandolins while we chatted about finally starting a group back home.
Our Forest Church experience was rounded out as Glen and I visited with Simon and Allie, two leaders of Ancient Arden Forest Church. They live in a bit more urban environment but still gather outdoors to pray and reflect together. Their group is more ritually based as they draw on older rhythms of the Celtic calendar. They spoke passionately of how reconnecting to G-d in nature was keeping them grounded. Their group was also a place of nurture for Christians who had left church but still wanted to honour Christ, as well as people who were walking the pagan road. They were creating a profound interfaith space.
I was struck by the simplicity of both groups, each honouring G-d in nature in different ways but knowing that doing so was a lifeline of spiritual sanity in a world so disconnected from creation. Sharing this with Glen was very meaningful as we both pondered what it would take to start Sturgeon Valley Forest Church. Anyone interested in joining us?