The Outdoor Worship Leicestershire (OWL) Network held their first conference in the diocese on 28 October in the grounds of Overdale Junior School in Knighton.
The site, containing a wonderful woodland, a generous playing field and access to the recently improved Saffron Brook, was a fabulous asset to the conference as the group immediately recognised themselves as being within God’s creation, as part of God’s creation and joining with all of God’s creation in worshipping God.
Anne Scott, lay church-planting pioneer for Belgrave St Peter’s Church and facilitator for the OWL network, explained that the aims of the day were to celebrate and share the outdoor worshiping communities which were already active within the diocese, to support and encourage leaders of outdoor worship communities, and to inspire and birth new outdoor worshiping communities.
Anne arranged the conference to enable a natural supportive network as well as share good practise with the whole group.
More than 60 people, including a mixture of lay and ordained leaders, joined in sung worship led by Joel Payne from Resound Worship, with songs that opened their eyes to see God within the wonders of the created world around us – even the armadillos! A couple of the songs were from the Doxecology album which is a wonderful resource for any church looking to embed care for creation within in their service.
Bishop Saju spoke movingly about the call to care for God’s world in response to all that God has made, reconciled and planned for the future, before blessing the work of the network and the flow of the day.
Attendees then took part in two out of the eight workshops on offer, including listening to God in creation, developing outdoor collective worship, barefoot walking, using labyrinths, and outdoor yoga.
The Forest School session with Rachel Summers encouraged people to explore creation with an open, child-like attitude with a mini-beast hunt, apple toasting over the fire and creating flowers from fallen leaves.
Dave Gregory took Messy Church on an adventure with brook dipping, tree ring exploration and observing conkers and seeds – the focus was on wonder, playfulness and communion with nature.
Matt Long, our diocesan Youth Engagement and Intergenerational Communities Enabler, reminded his group how Jesus spent time around a fire with his disciples and the benefits there are to fellowship, before making and cooking pancakes together.
The day concluded by sharing communion together around a campfire, led by Revd Matt Green.
People left the conference feeling encouraged and saying: “So, so inspiring”, “So informative and inspiring”, “Very valuable and well organised”, “Inspiring, refreshing and much needed.”
Special thanks was extended to Kings Coffee House for the delicious and nutritious lunch and to the volunteers from GreenLight Missional Community, part of HTL.
The group will gather again in April with an on-line morning to explore the role of Outdoor Worship in the Eco Church award.
The OWL Network is financed by Resourcing Church. You can follow the group’s Facebook page to keep up to date with their ideas and events.