Welcome to Open Sky!

Next gathering Sunday 18th November, 3.00pm. (Note – it’s the 3rd Sunday this once). Venue to be confirmed – why not follow the website to make sure you keep updated? Hope to see you there!

Open Sky is a gathering of people who are looking for deeper connections with nature, with God and with each other. We meet in the woods or other outdoor places in Brighton on the second Sunday afternoon of each month. Come and join us!

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Autumn Prayer Walk

It was decidedly autumnal for our Autumn Prayer Walk: grey skies, cold wind, damp air (thankfully the rain paused). We walked in silence through the woods, with browning leaves, beech mast, haws and other fruit, and amazing fungi all around us. Coming out of the darkness of the trees into the open field lifted spirits, as did the sight of a variety of flowers in the grass. For many of us, this prayerful experience of autumn was a reminder of the beauty and value of every season, all of which is held in the love of God.

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Expressing Equinox: a ritual for transition

On 23rd September, the sun crosses the equator and the northern hemisphere starts to tip away from the sun. It’s the autumnal equinox (meaning ‘equal night’ – when day is the same length as the night) and for us global northerners it marks the movement away from summer and towards winter.

This time of year is a time of transition for many of us personally, as well as for nature. Summer is over, holidays and long, pleasant, sunlit evenings are behind us. September may mark the start of a new term for some and, for others, four months of unrelenting work until the next holiday at Christmas. We may have mixed feelings: loss, thankfulness, anticipation, dread.

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For nature it’s a time of mixed blessings too. Fledgling birds have, um, fledged and young small mammals have become adults. For many animals, it’s a time of preparing to survive winter. There’s plenty of fruit around – hopefully – some for fattening up and some for storing. Trees and other plants also prepare for winter, shedding leaves and dying back or, in the case of annuals, dying altogether as they place all their faith in the seeds they’ve produced.

One of the roles of religion has been to give us shared rituals to mark transitions in life. At Open Sky, we’re not particularly religious in terms of what we do when we meet, but we are keen to pay attention to nature and to God and connect ourselves into that greater Life around us. On 9th September, we met in our familiar clearing in the woods near Stanmer Park. We spent some time listening to our own spirits and what this time of transition means to us, and we also listened to what it means to this particular woodland. Then we talked about what might be an authentic ritual that expresses this movement from summer to autumn for us in this place at this time. A major theme that emerged for us was the cyclical nature of life, and a belief that through all the transitions, God is keeping the overview and holding the universe in loving hands. Our ritual was very simple. We each picked up a leaf from the ground and cradled it in our hands while we listened to those words of wisdom from the bible: Ecclesiastes 3.1-8 – “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die…” – words that were read at the very first meeting of Open Sky nearly two years ago. Life is cyclical indeed…

 

 

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Reading Water

There’s a story by Ursula Le Guin (in Searoad, 1991) where the foam on the waves writes words on the beach. In the bible, Psalm 29 talks about the voice of God thundering over the waters. According to Tristan Gooley in ‘How to Read Water’, there are a number of signs to be read in the sea. It may be as simple (but possibly life saving) as, ‘There’s a squall coming’. But maybe if you listen contemplatively, you might hear or see something more profound.Gooley cover

On Sunday 12th August at 3.00, we met on Hove Beach and learned about a few of the signs the sea may be telling us, drawn from Tristan Gooley’s work. Then we spent some time in quiet contemplation, looking and listening as the waves broke on the shore.

Open Sky Forest Church: listening to God by listening to nature

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Forest Church

Kath wrote this beautiful blog after July’s Open Sky Forest Church. Thanks so much, Kath!

The Long Walk Home

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We hadn’t been to Forest Church for a while.

It was a good opportunity to get cool after a long hot morning.

We sat in the same place we have sat before, last time we had come it was winter, everything was dead, damp and cold.

Today green moss covered the logs, luminous leaves sheltered us from the sun overhead and a cool breeze made the day bearable.

The boys clambered over fallen down trees and made a den in the forest.

We sat and tried to discern the invisible by looking deep at the visible all around us.

We were sent away to listen, to write, to return.

I wrote in response to three questions:

Today I feel…

Exhausted,

Run dry,

Aching.

But I can see in creation…

Familiar security

Unchanging strength

Eternal rootedness

in a landscape that
transforms, morphs, moulds itself
to the tides of seasons, sunshine, rain.

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Writing a Liturgy from Nature

What words does nature inspire in you? On Sunday 8th July we let nature inspire our words about God and gathered some prayers that help us connect what we see and what we believe about God.

 

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Time and Tide

In June we met by the sea shore in West Hove shortly after low tide and experienced the rising tide, the cycle of the moon and the movement of time approaching the summer solstice.

 

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Spring In Your Step

On 13th May, we met for a contemplative walk through the woods and fields of the Stanmer estate. A clump of trees in the middle of a field, a hawthorn tree in flower, a huge beech tree that had shed a large branch and some sickly-looking ash trees amongst some healthy-looking sycamores jockeying to replace them were stations along our silent walk that prompted reflection and prayer. The cycle of death and life was obviously a dominant theme, all held within the ever-living presence of God.

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