New Forest Church proving popular

First published on: 30th January 2019

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise… particularly if you happen to be venturing out on a Sunday afternoon into the woodlands between Bidborough and Southborough.

Since November, a new monthly “Forest Church” service has been running on Sunday afternoons, alternating between the two neighbouring churches, of St Lawrence’s Bidborough and St Peter’s Southborough.

The significant difference to the regular services is that most of Forest Church happens outdoors!

Clare Masters, Lay Reader at Bidborough explains how it works:

”We begin in church with a short time of praise and worship, lasting about 15 minutes. It’s intentionally very simple and we include a couple of worship songs, Bible reading, a short talk with lots of audience participation and interactive prayers. We’ve had different people leading and are encouraging new voices to participate in Bible readings and prayers.

“Then everyone tumbles outside into the fresh air, which so far has been cold but thankfully dry, for adventures in God’s wonderful world.”  

She continues: “Forest Church is open to all ages, but seeks to give a special welcome to families, as the churches know that Sunday morning diaries are often problematic, especially for those with children involved in sports.”

Clare says the development of the service was prompted by a raise in families bringing their children for baptism, but also the constraints of the building itself:

“The rise in baptisms led to many conversations with these families about the difficulties of getting to church regularly on Sunday mornings. And as we prayed for these families taking first steps along the journey of faith, the idea of Forest Church began to grow.

“Rural ministry may bring challenges, but there are also special advantages. We may not have spectacular premises, but our premises are set in spectacular surroundings, a real gift from God!”

Some of the activities that have taken place include, a fire bowl set up in the churchyard to cook breadsticks and marshmallows on whittled sticks; a woodland walk imagining the journey to Bethlehem, stopping en route to create mud portraits of Mary and Joseph on tree trunks and; making winter bouquets from twigs and berries, to give to someone you treasure.

Clare says it seems to be proving popular:

“We’ve been very encouraged by having more than 60 people coming along each month, about half of whom are children. Forest Church is simply an opportunity to worship God, to enjoy fellowship in his beautiful created world, and to build relationships amongst the church family.

“We’re looking forward to seeing how God grows this outreach ministry in the months to come.”

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