Opening up Open Sky Forest Church

Would you like to do some spiritual practice amongst nature? Forest Church is a great way to explore this in the company of other like-minded spiritual adventurers. In Brighton, Open Sky Forest Church met for a couple of years, but been having a break recently.  It’s time to get back in the woods!

If you’d like to help make Forest Church happen again in Brighton, please come to an open planning meeting on Sunday 30th June, from 3.00pm to 4.00pm.

We’ll meet in the little enclosed forest school area of the garden of the Brighthelm Centre, in the centre of Brighton. (See ‘How to find us‘). It’s a fully accessible space.

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It would be helpful to know if you’re coming, so just drop a line via the Contact us form.

Hope to see you under the Brighthelm Elms on June 30th!

Let’s get Open Sky Forest Church back on the winding earthen track…

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Want to be involved?

Open Sky Forest Church has been meeting monthly for over two years. Most of the events have been planned by one person, the rest by another. Numbers of people attending have fluctuated a lot but have been down considerably since Spring 2018, and sometimes it’s been just one or two faithful regulars. However, Forest Church is an idea that continues to spark interest, so we don’t want to give up. It’s just that the interest isn’t translating into many people coming.

We’re going to break for a few months. If anyone would like to help plan a Forest Church event over the Palm Sunday weekend (13th or 14th April 2019), please get in touch via the ‘Contact us‘ form on the website or via our Facebook page. Hopefully a small group will want to meet up in February or March to plan that event and the future direction of a Forest Church group in the Brighton area.

Please also get in touch if you have any observations to make, especially if you’re one of the people who’s expressed interest but never made it, or you’ve been once & it wasn’t for you – it would be really helpful to know why.

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Winter Prayer Walk

On Sunday 9th December we’ll walk through the wintering woodland, watching, listening, breathing, being. Join us to listen to God through listening to nature, as we walk, contemplatively, together.

Dress for the weather (we’re never put off by the weather, just sometimes inappropriately dressed). The going is fairly gentle, but with some slopes and uneven surfaces, which might well be muddy.

Meet by the finger post in the Upper Lodges car park – see ‘How to find us’ for details, including public transport

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The Dying of the Light

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Following on from our meetings so far this autumn, this time Alex led a guided meditation on how we can deal with the ‘dying of the light’. November is a time of remembering and thinking about loss: from Halloween and All Souls Day at the beginning of the month, through Armistice Day/Remembrance Sunday in the middle, to the Remembrance Day for Lost Species at the end. For those of us who care about justice – both environmental and social – these feel like dark and scary days. How, then, might we live well in them? To borrow from Dylan Thomas’s poem, do we rage against the dying of the light, or just go gentle into that good night? What is the way of God, especially in the light of Jesus’ sayings: “Blessed are those who mourn,” and “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice?”

 

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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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