Nature connection for Christians, how does that work? Why it’s a good idea? Is there any theological support for it? How do I develop what I’m already doing? How do I make sense of what I’m experiencing?
Written over the winter of 2013 / 14 this, the third publication from Mystic Christ Press, attempts to answer these and many more questions in chapters written by practitioners with practical experience.
Cate Williams – Contemporary Spirituality, Theology and Nature Connection
Cate Williams is an ordained Anglican priest. She is currently the Mission and Evangelism Officer for Gloucester Diocese having previously worked in parish ministry for 14 years in Middlesbrough and Milton Keynes, the latter in an ecumenical team.
Annie Heppenstall – Do I Not Fill Heaven And Earth?
Annie Heppenstall has a number of books, prayers and reflections published on Christianity’s potential for earth-spirituality, drawing on her Theology degree and love of nature. She is particularly drawn to the mystical and earth-centred aspects of spiritual paths of the world, the need for self-awareness and inner peace, as well as ecological mindfulness, if we are to engage constructively in the world today. Annie is a qualified teacher, especially enjoys art and music, and is married, with one son.
Matt Freer – The Power Of Nature Connection To Change The World
Matt Freer lives on a small-holding on the edge of the Black Mountains, where his family are developing a new venture providing space for retreats, holidays and workshops that connect with nature (http://www.warmthandwonder.co.uk). He is a project manager for the Quiet Garden Trust and works freelance on other projects. In the past he was the Environment Advisor to the Diocese of Oxford and has worked for a range of NGOs on community development and environmental issues in the UK and Africa (http://www.mattfreer.info).
Simon Marshall – Nature is My Church
Simon Marshall is a Vicar, poet and liturgist and lives in the West Midlands. He leans towards an earth-centred spirituality, and helps to lead Ancient Arden Forest Church. He also grows herbs, practices yoga and watches the changing seasons from the tiny patch of woodland in his garden. When he remembers to, he blogs at barefoottree.blogspot.co.uk
Ruth Valerio – Paganism, Christianity And A Celtic Easter: Some Personal Reflections
Dr Ruth Valerio is Churches and Theology Director of A Rocha UK and author of, L is for Lifestyle: Christian living that doesn’t cost the earth. Also a director of the fair-trade jewellery company, Cred, she is community activist, Christian, academic, eco-warrior, mum, author, veg grower, wife and pig keeper rolled into one. You can find out more about her at http://www.ruthvalerio.net.
Anne Hollinghurst – Franciscan Spirituality & Nature As Sacrament Within The Christian Mystical Tradition
Anne Hollinghurst is a vicar and a co-founder of St Albans Forest Church. Her journey has taken her from inner-city youth ministry to Higher Education chaplaincy, cathedral ministry to city-centre parish, where she continues to work out how to be both a contemplative and an activist. Her post-graduate research is in the traditions of the Christian and Jewish mystics and she enjoys walking the Cumbrian fells for inspiration.
Simon Cross – Alien Nation: The Rise And Fall Of The Green Men
Simon Cross is an activist and author who works for Oasis in Grimsby, where he is Chaplain to two large Academy schools and facilitates Oasis Church. He likes climbing trees, foraging in hedgerows, growing vegetables, canoeing, chatting, loafing, pondering, meandering, whittling, wandering and wondering.
Stuart Elliott – Sabbath Spaces: Loosing Control
When not tending to his ‘flock’, you’ll often find Stuart Elliott scything meadows or running mountains. An Ordained Priest and member of the Iona Community; he is passionate about regenerating community with fresh bread and home grown food.
Steve Hollinghurst – Liberating The Land: Recovering The Human Priesthood Of Creation
Steve Hollinghurst is trainer, consultant and researcher in contemporary culture, mission and new forms of church and also a part-time tutor for Church Army. He has an academic background in social science and theology, looking at culture and spirituality in today’s world. He helps coordinate Communities of the Mystic Christ and runs Christian stalls at Mind Body and Spirit fairs. His publications include Mission-Shaped Evangelism Canterbury Press 2010, New Age Paganism and Christian Mission, Grove 2002, and Starting, Assessing and Sustaining Pioneer Mission Grove 2013 along with a number of chapters and articles in others.
Dan Papworth – Rewilding The Soul
Dan Papworth, 45, is ordained in the Church of England but left parish ministry in 2013 to concentrate on family, writing, spiritual accompaniment and stacking shelves. He lives in Cheltenham and would love to hear from anyone there who wants to explore Forest Church further.
Helen Bradley – Selfhood In The Community Of Nature
Helen Bradley is a youth worker living in Wiltshire and facilitator of Avalon Forest church. She is also studying for an MA in youth and community work with practical theology and basing her research around nature connection.
Nick Thorpe – An Oceanic God
Nick Thorpe is an award winning writer, journalist and speaker. His travel memoir, Adrift in Caledonia: Boat-hitching for the Unenlightened (Abacus 2007), from which this essay is adapted, was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week. His most recent book is Urban Worrier: Adventures in the Lost Art of Letting Go (Abacus 2012). http://www.nickthorpe.co.uk.
Paul Cudby – Friendships Across The Divide: A Theology Of Encounter
Paul Cudby used to be a scientist but is now vicar in Tanworth in Arden. In addition to working with Forest Church he has a yearning for better interfaith relationships with the Pagan community which he works at through being the Bishop of Birmingham’s adviser for New Religious Movements. Married to Alison Eve, he plays drums and percussion for her and with Eve and the Garden, and is currently working on a book about understanding Paganism.
Bruce Stanley – Deepening Nature Connection
Bruce Stanley ran away from the circus to get involved in things even more creative. Most recently he’s pioneered the Forest Church movement and works and writes to promote nature connection and participation with the hope that what we love we may care for more. These days he is to be found with his wife Sara somewhere on a beautiful hill farm in the Cambrian mountains where they’re growing a permaculture forest garden http://www.finepluck.co.uk
Alison Eve – The Sacred Circle: Elements Of Ritual
Alison Eve is a singer-songwriter, wedding harpist and liturgist for alternative worship. She writes much of the ritual and song used by Ancient Arden Forest Church, and has recently released an album for the yearly cycle of celebrations on her own Ritualitas label http://www.ritualitas.co.uk Ali i.s a Bard of the Order Of Bards Ovates and Druids, and also follows the Ceile De tradition. She trained in contemporary dance, and is currently exploring free movement in the green. Along with her husband and drummer, Paul Cudby, Ali plays in the folk band Eve & The Garden, and also directs the all female voice choir, nChant. http://www.alisoneve.co.uk
Nick Mayhew-smith – Bathing In The Christian Tradition
Nick Mayhew-Smith is a writer and Anglican lay minister, author of the best-selling guidebook Britain’s Holiest Places, a guide to 500 sites of sacred heritage. His book was made into a six-part BBC Four television series in 2013, ‘Pagans & Pilgrims: Britain’s Holiest Places’. He is currently researching a PhD on nature devotions in the early British church, at Roehampton University.
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We seek to find the presence of God in the open air and in nature, and to connect with the Divine Being who is present in creation. We seek to foster a love of creation, a love which will lead us to care for it. We look for reconciliation between nature and human beings, and within human relationships. More ...
There are some lovely moments in the Gospels in which Jesus, sitting or walking with his disciples, calls their attention to something. There is a sense that the disciples inhabit two worlds but are perhaps aware only of one until he says to them “Do you see this?” and, looking more closely, something deeper is revealed. Approaching nature in our own time we too find that we occupy two worlds, those of science and spirituality, and most of us are more familiar with the first. This book is an attempt to bring these two worlds into closer companionship. More ...