Monday, November 9, 2020

October session for Seed Gathering Sunday 11.10.20

Seed gathering Sunday


Question: When is the best time to plant a tree?


Answer: 20 years ago. The second best time is now.


For today’s material, I am grateful for Rachel Summer’s book ‘Wild Worship: discovering God through creation’.


Planting trees is an exercise in patience, Rachel reminds us. We plant for a future which we may or may not see ourselves, but we hope will benefit others, including perhaps our children and grandchildren. The seeds we gather today may be from trees which started growing before we were born. Rachel says, “All those tiny creatures that will have a home and thrive and multiply because of your tree. All the restful green beauty in the summer, and stark bony beauty in the winter, that you’ll be providing for the eyes of future generations. The shade from the sun and sudden downpours.”


So here’s the plan – 


·      You are invited to go for a walk somewhere there are trees, and look at their seeds and nuts. Maybe you will find acorns from oak trees, conkers from horse chestnuts, amongst many other types. Here is a link to a simple identification guide, if you would like one

·      Place your hands on the trunks of the trees and give thanks for all they have given you over the past decades, and given others whom you don’t know

·      Choose some seeds that you would like to plant, and bring them carefully home. I know we usually try not to disrupt our landscape in Forest Church, but hopefully there will be plenty of seeds left behind, and you will be planting these baby trees in areas where they might not otherwise have the opportunity to grow

·      Once you are back at home, hold a seed in your hand and imagine the potential held within it. Imagine the tree growing through the years, the weather it will see, the animals it will shelter, the people who will enjoy looking at it, the oxygen it will create. Perhaps you might like to pray a prayer of thanks to God for the potential held in small and unassuming places. Pray for the lives the trees will touch, unknown to you now.

·      Use an old newspaper to create plant pots for sowing them in. Fold the sheet of newspaper in half. Place a baked bean tin or similar at the folded end, and roll the newspaper around it. Turn it on its end, and tap it, squashing the protruding newspaper underneath it. Carefully slide the tin back out, and fill the newspaper pot with soil. You could pack a few of them into an old ice cream tub to make it less messy when you water them. Plant a seed or two in each pot, label them, and put them somewhere cool over the winter to grow. Next year, you can plant the baby trees for your very own rewilding project. NB: there are lots of things to consider when choosing the site for your planting, e.g. proximity to buildings, rivers, power and pipelines, etc. Maybe we can have another Forest Church session to consider that in early spring!



Once you have planted your seeds, you might like to read this passage from Genesis chapter 1 in the Bible together –


Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.


One final idea – look at this poem – do you think the poet has deliberately written it in the shape of a tree? Or is that just my imagination? Perhaps you might feel inspired to create your own piece of art or poetry.


Think Like a Tree

by Karen I. Shragg

Soak up the sun
Affirm life’s magic
Be graceful in the wind
Stand tall after a storm
Feel refreshed after it rains
Grow strong without notice
Be prepared for each season
Provide shelter to strangers
Hang tough through a cold spell
Emerge renewed at the first signs of spring
Stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky
Be still long enough to
hear your own leaves rustling.




Friday, November 6, 2020

Autumn Leaves - Detachment

Following current government guidelines, we will not be gathering this month. However, as usual, we have created material for you to go either alone or with your bubble into a natural space and follow the thoughts for this month. Just as we did last month, we will be gathering via Zoom on Sunday evening to still meet and talk about our experiences and thoughts.

New Forest Forest Church for November 8th 2020 can be found here: 

Friday, August 7, 2020

Hedgerow Walk

 Usually New Forest Forest Church meet together on the second Sunday of the month. However, during the lockdown we have been producing material on those Sundays for each of us to go out into the natural world around us either alone, or in our household/bubble.

This month New Forest Forest Church will be walking local hedgerow.
Hedgerow is a significantly important aspect of the ecosystem, and is in decline in Britain.

We will each walk whichever hedgerow we find to walk and stop to look at the vast array of life that can be found in it. Not only the creatures, but the plants themselves.
There is a very rough guide which can be followed by which a hedgerow can be aged. This is done by counting the number of woody species, trees and large shrubs, within a 30m length of hedgerow. Each species counted equals around 100 years of age, so the more species you find, the older the hedgerow is!
The second guide to discovery in the hedgerow is "the more you look, the more you see". Take time to pause at points along the hedgerow and just stare into it.
The longer you stand and stare the more life you will discover is there.

Why not record, write, draw, or photograph, the different species and types of plant you discover and guess the age of the hedgerow; and the different species and types of creature you discover and write them out on the Facebook page or blog post?

Below are a couple of websites to give you some more information.

As you walk the hedgerow keep these verses in mind:

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so.
Genesis 1v24

13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
14 You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth,
15 and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart.
16 The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 In them the birds build their nests; the stork has its home in the fir trees...
...24 O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
Psalm 104v13-17 & 24

After you have walked the hedgerow and contemplated the verses, think of how you might be able, in any little or significant way, to help the growth of hedgerow, and the life of plant and creature within it.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Parable of the.... Rose Family Fruits

July brings the start of the main summer harvest in our garden and, although strawberries and some raspberries have fruited, now there are all the currants, plenty of raspberries, loganberries and tayberries and even the blackberries are starting to turn red, ready for an August picking.

Cherries are safely picked and turned into pie and jam; apples and pears are swelling in the orchard and the crab apple tree is so laden we have to stoop to walk under it. Even our baby plum tree has a few ripe fruit for the first time ever.

This month we are using these summer fruits as a basis for our Forest Church, taking a slightly different angle on the parable of the sower. This time the seeds are not being planted straight in the ground, we are considering their growth even before harvest time, as they are growing to maturity in their parent plant.

Join us as we muse together on how we allow God's word (these same seeds) to grow in us to maturity.

There is a link to an audio file and also a simple video for those who like pictures to focus on.

Please add your comments and thoughts below when you have had a chance to participate in this month's Forest Church - I am only sorry I can't share with you the real fruit from our garden that I had hoped would be part of this session!

Audio Podcast (MP3) of July's Forest Church

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Wind, wind, blow on me...

Image of a crow in a treeThis month's forest church is about getting outside and listening; listening to the wind (or the rain) and the language of air and water.

The Holy Spirit is sometimes described as Living Water and Jesus said of the Spirit  "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." 

So here's a story to get you going and some further instructions based on the story. 

Click here to open the story (mobile-friendly podcast with transcript).
Let us know your own reflections by commenting on this post.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Is Coronavirus healing the Earth?

This month for New Forest Forest Church, rather than a video, we felt that it would be nice to all go out in our local area at 4 o’clock on Sunday May 10th, when we would usually be gathering, so that we are all out at the same time, even if we aren’t together, and as we walk to contemplate how the current lockdown is affecting the planet and the natural environment.

As you walk slowly and quietly and absorb the natural environment near you and the Divine presence within it, contemplate what impact your life has on the planet, and what the current situation shows us about the affect Western culture is having on the earth.

Below is some information to help your thoughts. Perhaps you could find out more information.

Following your time out contemplating, why not come back here and write your thoughts and comments so that we can share together in our experiences?

While the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, the slowdown in human activity is having some unexpected, but positive impact on our planet. To combat the rapidly spreading virus countries have put a lockdown resulting in limited travel and industrial activity.
Across the globe wildlife and plant life and aqua-life has been reported as increasing in its health and activity. Limiting travel has led to a reduction in vehicle emissions and cutting the amount of industrial activity has led to a drop in the number of harmful particles put in the air and water.
According to Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Finland, the restrictions contributed to a 25 percent drop in China's carbon dioxide emissions over four weeks beginning in late January, compared to the same time last year.
Myllyvirta's analysis also found that industrial operations were reduced by 15 percent to 40 percent in some sectors and that coal consumption at power plants fell by 36 percent.
In San Francisco, which is under shelter-in-place orders to control the spread of the coronavirus, the average concentration of fine particulate matter — tiny particles in the air that are dangerous because they can be breathed deeply into the lungs — over five days was almost 40 percent lower than the previous year; in New York City, there was a 28 percent drop over the same period of time, and the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue saw a 32 percent decrease.
Air pollution levels in the UK dropped significantly in the first two weeks that the country went into lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus. Some UK cities saw nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels fall by up to 60%, analysis shows. NO2, released from car exhausts, is a serious air pollutant and also indirectly contributes to the warming of the planet.
Researchers who study the Earth’s movement are reporting a drop in seismic noise — the hum of vibrations in the planet’s crust — that could be the result of transport networks and other human activities being shut down. Data from a seismometer at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels, show that measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Brussels caused human-induced seismic noise to fall by about one-third.

Watch this video to learn more:

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Easter Sunday Special

During the national lockdown due to the Coronavirus we at New Forest Forest Church (NFFC) are following the Government guidelines and have ceased to meet as a group until further notice.
However, many folk were looking forward to our Easter Sunday gathering and so I recorded it and posted this video on the NFFC Facebook page on Easter Sunday afternoon.
For those who either didn’t see it or don’t have Facebook, here it is on our blogsite as well.

Obviously there would have been some discussion and interaction if we had gathered as a group, so please feel free to comment with your thoughts about the poem which I read, and any other related thoughts you have. 

I hope you enjoy it.

Continued Easter blessings to you!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Be More Snail

On March 8th, we met at Minstead to consider our friends the gastropods, and what we might learn from their way of life. As it turns out, that was the last time we were able to meet face to face for a while, due to social distancing requirements in the coronavirus pandemic. I wonder how we might reflect on the themes we introduced then, in view of what we are experiencing now, only 3 weeks later? In red, I have added to our original themes some additional questions for reflection. We took three angles -

1. Make your home where you are 

2. Move slowly

3. Leave a trail of crystal behind you

1. Make your home where you are

A snail can withdraw into its shell to protect itself, and to hibernate. Imagine trying to carry our homes on our backs! What can we learn from snails about the nature of home?

In the first phase of our walk, we were invited to have a conversation with another about what it would be like if what we happened to have with us today were all we had, connecting in some tiny way with the experience of refugees. We reminded ourselves of Jesus' words – ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’ (Matt 8, v. 20).

We are now in a phase of withdrawal into our shells to protect ourselves and those who are vulnerable in our society. David showed us a photo when we were together of snails, all hibernating in their shells, but located side by side in a crevasse. How is this enforced hibernation increasing our sense of connection to others who are hibernating?

2. Move slowly

We then spent some time moving slowly around a small area, seeking out some slugs and snails to observe. 

We were offered this poem from Rob Bell -

Walk, don’t run.
That’s it.
Walk, don’t run.
Slow down, breathe deeply,
and open your eyes because there’s
a whole world right here within this one. The bush doesn’t suddenly catch on fire, it’s been burning the whole time.
Moses is simply moving
slowly enough to see it. And when he does,
he takes off his sandals.
Not because
the ground has suddenly become holy,
but because he’s just now becoming aware that
the ground has been holy the whole time.
Efficiency is not God’s highest goal for your life,
neither is busyness,
or how many things you can get done in one day,
or speed, or even success.
But walking,
which leads to seeing,
now that’s something.
That’s the invitation for every one of us today,
and everyday, in every conversation, interaction,
event, and moment: to walk, not run. And in doing so,
to see a whole world right here within this one.

How are we using this opportunity to slow down? What might we be learning in the process? 'There's a whole world, right here, within this one' - how might we allow ourselves to see the 'holy ground' within our homes and relationships?

3. Leave a trail of crystal behind you 

The silver trail is a very special substance – it is not liquid, not solid, it is in fact a form of crystal – it protects the slug or snail from bacteria, and enables it to climb different surfaces. It is a means of communication – leaving messages for other gastropods. 

Our final phase was an invitation to reflect on what it is we leave behind us – not just when we die, but when we leave a space – how do we leave people feeling, do we think? What are the effects of our actions on other people? Even our desires to be helpful – what effect may they have on others? 

I don't think I am alone in hoping that there might be some long lasting positive effects on our communities and relationships from this sense of lockdown. However, there will also be grief, loss, and broken relationships. May we continue to look for ways to share Love, which will protect us and our loved ones from harm, enable us to navigate tough terrain, and communicate God's ongoing nature of care.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Brigid's Blessings - February

On this stormy evening we were so thankful for the gift of a warm and welcoming home to meet in, it isn't often that Forest Church takes place completely indoors.
Today we learned about Brigid, of whom many tales are told, she has a significant place in Irish culture as a Patron Saint of many things, but remembered particularly for her hospitality and reckless generosity that drove her family to distraction!
One story goes that she was taken to a local king by her father who was frustrated with her giving away so many of the family's possessions, he begged the king to buy her! While her father was speaking to the king, Brigid gave a passing beggar her father's sword, when the king learned of this he exclaimed "She is too good for me - I could never win her obedience!"

Another story speaks of her being called to the death-bed of local Pagan chieftain. As he was too ill to speak, Brigid gathered up reeds from the floor and started weaving them into the shape of a cross. The chieftain asked what she was doing so Brigid was able to share the story of Christ and the cross - the chieftain believed and asked to be baptised before his death.

A Brigid's cross is often given as a housewarming gift, they are traditionally made on 1st February, Brigid's feast day. House blessing prayers are said (sometimes a group of friends or neighbours may go round from house to house) and the cross is fixed to a doorway or on the wall.

"May God give His blessing to the house that is here.
God bless this house from roof to floor,
from wall to wall,
from end to end,
from its foundation and in its covering.

In the strong name of the Triune God
all evil be banished,
all disturbance cease,
captive spirits freed,
God's Spirit alone
dwell within these walls.

We call upon the Sacred Three
to save, shield and surround
this house, this home,
this day, this night,
and every night."                                        From Celtic Daily Prayer, Book One

 We spent time making our own crosses, and some people wrote their own home blessing prayers.
This is a prayer from the Lindisfarne Scriptorium.

"This home is yours my God, may it be comfortable and filled with love.
     Let there be light.
This home is yours my God, may it be blessed and filled with laughter.
     Let there be joy.
This home is yours my God, may it be safe and filled with peace.
     Let there be hope."

We finished with some Brigid bread which was delicious with a little bit of butter and jam.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

9th Feb - Last of the House Based winter venues

In December, January and February the New Forest Forest Church meets at Fairwinds, Stonehills, Fawley, SO45 1DU. This gives the twin benefits of nearby coastal walks, a wild-ish garden overlooking woods and water yet all a few steps from a log burner!

However, parking isn't abundant and with a care home nearby the narrow lane has regular visits from ambulances. The map below indicates some of the best parking nearby. If walking is difficult let us know in advance and we'll ensure there is space on the drive. 

There's lots of parking at Ashlett Creek - 6 mins walk away; There's normally one or two spaces half way between Fairwinds and Ashlett Creek where Stonehills lane splits into two and a grass verge lies between the two. There's quite a bit of parking in Calshot Close just before the turn off from the main road to Stonehills. You can then walk down Stonehills to Fairwinds or via a small wood (pick up the the footpath that runs between a tin garage and a house called Armadale).

Map of Stonehills area with parking spots marked - see text for details
Map to show location of Fairwinds and best parking.