By Lol Wood – Family Project Leader for the Churches in Lunesdale

We began during the pandemic under the name Muddy Church. Our starting place was trying to find a way to ensure families still felt loved by their local churches during this strange time. At that time you couldn’t meet others even in your back gardens. It was a really hard time for many people. We created a stone trail, around Kirkby Lonsdale, with pictures of boots on and quotes from Christianity alongside other positive quotes or messages. We created a quiz sheet with clues for participants to find different places we had hidden the stones. Launching it online, it quickly became popular. Images of families finding these stones soon appeared on social media feeds. It was an action that brought joy to many, including our team who created, painted and spread these stones during their walks.

After lockdowns we gathered in person. The team is ecumenical with a mix of Anglican and Methodist local Christians and we work together in every way we can. This time our format was shaped by the love of finding things. We began with a scavenger hunt, followed by a story from the Bible. Next we created something together using the materials we found outside before ending with biscuits and a drink. At our first in person gathering only 5 people turned up. It was still a great time! We laughed together and learnt from one another.

As we met bi-monthly and our numbers plateaued we wondered what had happened to all the families in lockdown. I went to our local toddler group and asked what they had heard about Muddy Church and whether they would consider coming. One Mum was really helpful. ‘It’s the name’ she said. ‘We don’t want mud on our carpets’. As soon as she said it, it was obvious!

Next time we gathered as Muddy, we asked the faithful families who had come to help us to pick a new name. We chose Foresty. We also moved location, to a field where we could end our time around a bonfire, eating smores, drinking and talking together. Our numbers grew and now are averaging around 45. Numbers though aren’t everything. I really believe this- it is about connecting. Our issue with limited numbers was the fact we knew we had connected with more and we wondered where they had gone. We have always had amazing conversations at Muddy/Foresty. People are more open, I think partly because we are outside, where they can walk away easily if they wish. The lack of a doorway and a building has only helped us to be Church more authentically. Our time isn’t spent worrying about the roof but is more centred around the people. In time we hope to create some sort of home group shaped purely by the thoughts and ideas of the people at Foresty. As one parent who comes to Foresty said “This is where we feel most like Church as we are learning together.” Foresty brings it people who attend time-honoured church right through to someone who would never go near a Church. But it is Church; it is a group who gather to wonder, think and learn from one another about God.

Lol Wood
Family Project Leader for the Churches in Lunesdale