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.

Boots higher res

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Naming Nature

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.


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Walk of Wonder

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.img_20170201_111748

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Winter Fire Circle

BonfireWe 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.

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Christmas Open Sky

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!

Bh garden fire circle

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The Memory of Trees

OS Nov WP artwork

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…

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Spiders and webs

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. spider 2Spiders 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.

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See more by being seen less

FoxThis 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)

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This is a notice from July 2017:

Come and learn the ancient craft of woven hazel hurdle fencing in the Brighthelm Centre garden on Thursday 27th July! It’s free – you get to learn a new skill, with the satisfaction of using your hands to make something beautiful and functional, and Brighthelm gets some new fencing. The workshop starts at 9.30, and you can come for the day or just part of it.

Brighthelm has been developing its pre-school garden, extending it to include an area with a woodland feel, so that the children can learn an appreciation of nature through forest-school-type activities. This area, under a great Elm tree, might be a good meeting place for Open Sky sometimes – a woodland clearing, right in the middle of Brighton. The hazel fencing will help divide up the different areas in the garden.


This is what hazel hurdling looks like. Brighthelm’s will be lower and shorter

Hazel is a very useful tree. It grows quickly, and is easily coppiced. Coppicing hazel is great for wildlife. Enough light gets through for wild-flowers, with resulting benefits to birds and insects. The stands give good shelter for ground-nesting birds, like nightjars, yellowhammers and nightingales. The nuts provide food for animals like dormice and wood mice, as well as birds and humans (think praline and ice-cream sundaes). The leaves are food for caterpillars, which in turn are food for birds and mammals. The young stems are very flexible, and hazel is generally a good craft timber: used in thatching, furniture, as stakes in the garden, as well as camp-craft. In herb-lore, hazel is used for water-divining sticks and to ward off evil, with the nuts being worn as charms against rheumatism. In Irish folk-lore, hazel has been known as the Tree of Knowledge. In the part of Stanmer woods where we’ve been meeting for Open Sky Forest Church, there’s not a lot of hazel, but we do pass some along the path from the car park.

If you’d like to take part in the hurdle-making workshop, it would be helpful for Brighthelm to know to expect you. This will also mean they can contact you in case of cancellation. You can use the contact form below and we’ll pass your name on, or phone Brighthelm reception on 01273 821512

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