The summer is here – the abundance of life is clearly all around us – nature is busy doing its thing, says Matt Freer, the environment officer at the Diocese of Oxford.
It is a time when we perhaps feel more connected to the earth.
Delights for our senses are everywhere, from the sweetness of freshly picked strawberries and peas, to the wonder of so many shades of green around us.
It is a time of year when we might start to sense and know more fully that we are all connected to nature.
It isn’t just something that we watch on TV, or that we venture into to walk the dog.
In fact it isn’t something we go into at all, rather we are part of it. Really we are indistinguishable from nature.
This realisation can be profound.
It has the potential to help us change the way we view nature, and also how we look after it. It is also good for us!
Growing evidence suggests that embracing nature connection boosts our physical and psychological well-being and deepens our ecological sensitivity.
Nature connection is also central to the Forest Church movement that has been steadily growing over the past two years (now with over 13 groups in the UK and a presence in four countries) and is asking the question of what ‘being church’ while participating with nature might look like.
There are a few Forest Church groups in the Oxford area exploring this question and connecting with their local nature in different ways.
In Carterton a group has, for example, been exploring bushcraft skills and orienteering at Kilkenny Country Park, while Wychwood Forest Church started with a sponsored walk in the Charlbury area.
Oxford Forest Church recently met at Wytham Woods, top right, again (we are wanting to see it in every season for a year).
It was a week before the summer solstice, so we reflected on the gifts of the sun, the light, warmth, colour and abundance it brings.
It was also a week after Pentecost, so we celebrated the presence of Spirit, who gives life in all its fullness.
Thanks to Dr Andy Gosler (a university research lecturer in ornithology and conservation) we were treated to a close-up encounter with a nest of great tit fledglings – and we took time to engage with nature silently.
We closed our time with a tea ceremony, using tea made of three plants from the summer’s abundance – chamomile for peace and rest, dandelion leaves for cleansing, and elderflower for strength of voice and song.
We passed the tea around with the words “may the blessing of God’s abundance be with you”.
As you enjoy the abundance of summer why not take time to purposefully head outside to appreciate nature, and how you’re part of it? Use all your senses.
You could walk outside barefoot, like St Francis did, so he would experience no disconnect between himself and ‘Sister Earth’.
May the blessings of God’s abundance be with you, wherever you find yourself this summer.
The Rev Tess Kuin Lawton, chaplain of Magdalen College School, Oxford says:
THE students are celebrating, the gardens are in full bloom, there is a festival atmosphere here at MCS and summer (rain or shine) is definitely here.
After the intensity and passion of the exam season, everyone is looking forward to a long summer to re-charge the batteries.
You might be surprised to hear that the Church follows a similar pattern.
For us, the intensity and the passion comes at Easter and the 50 days following that powerful
re-telling of Jesus’ resurrection.
Over 50 days, we ponder and dwell on the Big Sequel: Jesus’ ascension, the arrival of the Holy Spirit (the ‘Comforter’, so that his disciples should ‘not be left as orphans’) and then the Christian affirmation of God as three and one – the Trinity.
It’s a lot to chew over, and priests all over the country wrestle with these huge doctrinal questions in ways not dissimilar to students wrestling with their finals.
And then comes ‘Ordinary Time.’
The colours in Church turn to green and the season lasts until just before Advent.
When you pop into a church this summer, you will hear some of the most familiar readings, like the parable of the Sower and the seeds, because this is the season when Christians ‘grow’ in their faith.
This is what the start of summer means for us all: time to reflect and consider. Time for laughter and fun.
Time to press the ‘pause’ button on life and work out what is important once again. ‘Ordinary Time.’
In the Church it is all about Jesus’ everyday teaching. And his stories remind us that our ‘daily bread’ is all about the love of others and the care of ourselves.
“A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12).
More than anyone else, Jesus knew that it is in the ordinary things of life that we find the extraordinary.
A smile from a stranger when life threatens to overwhelm you. The laughter of a delighted child.
The unexpected kindness of a colleague at work.
These acts of love are what help us to grow and in the summer season, may we all have the time to recognise and celebrate these blessings in our lives.
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