Next gathering Sunday 13th May, 3.00pm, meeting in the Upper Lodges car park in Stanmer Park, just off the Ditchling Road.
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!
Is giving a name an act of power or an act of respect? You might call that a sparrow, but what name would she give herself, and what name might God give her? When Adam named the animals in the bible story of Eden, was he taking power over them or establishing a relationship with them and studying them to tell the difference between, say, a house sparrow and a hedge sparrow? How might the names we use for other beings affect our relationship with them?
On Sunday 8th April, we headed into the woods and tried this exercise in attentiveness – attentiveness both to the beings who live in the woods and to ourselves. Between us we came up with some names for trees and plants that were much more interesting than their usual common names – like ‘shivery holy spirit tree’ for a beech sapling still holding on to last year’s leaves, which were shivering despite there being very little breeze. It was interesting to think about discovering something’s true being and therefore its true name. Just the act of studying a plant intently felt like deepening respect for it. We also thought about God calling us by name and the respect that God therefore has for each of us.
On Sunday 11th February we walked in contemplative silence through the beautiful landscape of Stanmer Park. The earth was starting to come back to life after the depths of winter and there was lots to see and hear in the woods and fields of the Downs. We took it slowly, in silence, with a few ‘stations’ for ideas for thought/prayer along the way.
We returned to the Brighthelm garden – a green oasis in the centre of Brighton – for a fire circle. In the heart of winter, fire is a welcome gift. We explored fire’s significance to us through a mixture of led meditation and silence.
This is how we advertised our Christmas Fire Circle…
Join us in the Brighthelm garden as we gather around the fire under ancient elms in this historic town-centre churchyard. There’ll be stories to tell, songs to sing, marshmallows to toast, prayers to pray and maybe even some things to make – all to celebrate Christmas, Open Sky style.
Sunday 10th December, 3.00-4.00pm, Brighthelm Centre, BN1 1YD. The garden is on the southern side of the community centre – access from Church Street, Queen’s Road or past the Centre from North Road. For more details of how to get there, click on ‘How to find us’ above. As always, dress for the weather. If it’s wet, we’ll be under a tarpaulin. Whatever the weather, the seats might be damp so bring something to sit on. Hope to see you there!
This was our notice for 12th November 2017: we’ll remember trees that have been special to us. Do the trees remember us too, and all the events that have happened under (or in) their branches? Remembrance Sunday in the woods…
We’re enjoying re-visiting the same woodland each month and getting a sense of the changing seasons. At September’s gathering, we went looking for spider webs. Spiders are busy at this time of year, but the windy weather meant it was hard to find webs that had survived by mid-afternoon. Webs are hard to find anyway, and sometimes it’s only by focusing on the middle-distance, or un-focusing your eyes altogether, that you spot something tiny fluttering in the wind and when you look more closely you see that it’s a speck of leaf caught on a web. Our connections – with God, with humans, with nature – can be just as elusive but they are still there, and sometimes you have to change your focus in order to notice them.
We made a web of rope, with each person holding a point of it. We thought about the web of life that connects us all, and the impacts we have on other beings and their impacts on us. Forest Church may be a way we can change our focus and become more aware of our place in the community of nature, and so develop a more gentle, loving, creative impact.
This was our notice for 13th August 2017:
Ever wished you could walk silently like a fox, as you clomp along the forest path, scaring off all the wildlife ahead of you? And have you ever thought that if you could only see like an owl or hear like a deer you would be able to notice more of the wildlife, assuming it hadn’t been scared off by your clompy footsteps and your cheery chatter?
For our August meeting, we’ll have a go at learning some techniques from the animals that will help us to see more of the life of the woods and connect more deeply with nature – including our own nature. If you impact less you may be impacted more.
Be prepared for a slightly longer walk (about 15 minutes from the car park) as we’ll be going into the field to practice. As always – come prepared for the weather!
Sunday 13th August. Meet at 3pm in the Upper Lodges car park in Stanmer Park (off Ditchling Road)