Over the past year there has been significant growth in the number of churches and church groups across the country turning to the rest of creation to support their ministry. Towards the end of the restrictions on gathering due to the pandemic, churches took their traditional services out into the church grounds, toddler groups and Messy church gatherings began to explore Mossy church as an outdoor socially-distanced alternative and Forest Churches began to pop up as more permanent adaptations to indoor gatherings. Many of these initiatives have remained as an effective way of meeting and ministering to new people beyond the usual church walls.
Here in Cumbria, there have been similar developments. As well as longer established groups which meet amidst creation, new ones have been emerging – each seeking to connect with and minister to their local communities. From walking with Fell Pilgrims around Kirkby Lonsdale to gardening in Whitehaven; contemplative walks in Dent to high mountain adventures in Penrith; from studying the life of trees in Wetheral to short coffee shop walks in Furness; and much more in between!
Alongside this has been the growth in openness of schools to invite church members to work with students and creation to improve student’s wellbeing and for them to experience pilgrimages. From Year 6 leavers on the beach in Maryport, to exploration of the creation story in Crosby Ravensworth; from a day long pilgrimage with Samuel King’s School, to a 3-week series of woodland wellbeing in Kirkbampton.
The communities and schools of Cumbria are keen to connect with the rest of the natural world – they have seen and experienced the positive difference it makes. They have begun to notice that there is more to their encounters than what meets the eye – that there’s something beyond the view! It’s a great opportunity for us as churches to support that connecting and inviting people to see nature not just as something nice though distinct from us, and rather to experience creation and the creator as something which we are part of and someone who is within us and for us.
For some simple reflections for use in the outdoors, or a general How-To guide please visit the Mountain Pilgrims website. If you’d like some support in developing the way in which you and your church partner with creation in ministering to your community and/or your local school, please get in touch with Paul Rose: email@example.com who will be glad to chat/visit with you.
Pioneer Enabler: Outdoors and Education