Those living around Alford will soon be able to participate in Forest Church when a new, family friendly, monthly service starts on the 18th July at 3pm in the church grounds of St Helena’s, Willoughby which has beautiful grounds and is a haven for wildlife as it has many large trees and wildflowers.

This is being made possible with a small grant (£500) from the Diocesan Transformation Fund for the purchase of a gazebo to shield attendees from both sun and rain and printing costs for promotional materials.

Forest Church provides people with an opportunity to connect with God through nature. All services take place outside and there will be activities for children – such as making a collage using leaves, twigs and flowers as well as a Bible stories, prayers and singing. It is less structured than a traditional church service and all elements link to God through creation. 

The Revd Sherine Angus, Assistant Curate in the Alford Group of Churches will be leading the Forest Church sessions with a team of lay volunteers, and the headteacher from St Helena’s Church of England primary school, Willoughby. A full day of Forest Church was held on the 24th June, enabling every child from St Helena’s Primary school to attend. After this session flyers were give to the children to take home inviting them and their parents to a monthly Sunday Forest Church service beginning on the 18th July.

“The inspiration for this began at Easter” Sherine said.  “We couldn’t have a service inside the church so instead we did a series of pilgrimages with the children in their class bubbles from the church to the village green where they then planted bluebells and primroses and I blessed them. They all loved it and really felt that connection between nature and God” she said.

Sherine continued, “What really crystallised my thinking was when one little girl commented that seeing the flowers reminded her of new life and what Jesus had done at Easter, so I really had to encourage this wave of interest. The services won’t be led as a traditional church service might be but more facilitated, so the focus is on what the participants see and discover themselves and we then explore that within the context of God’s creation.”

The Alford Group of Churches has recently registered as an Eco-Church and St Helena’s Church is actively engaged with the God’s Acre project which works to support groups to care for, and enjoy, burial grounds and graveyards.  Forest Church will complement and work with both of these initiatives. Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust have been to assess the site and are keen to make it a ‘showcase’ for woodland church grounds encouraging greater bio-diversity by planting local wildflower seeds and reducing mowing. 

Sherine concluded: “Everyone at our churches and the primary school is so excited about the start of Forest Church. Our organist is busy composing new songs for the children to sing and other people are going to bake so the children can have a snack when they are there. It really seems to be the right thing at the right time.  So many people have said they’ve been praying for something for children and families and with the school’s willingness to be involved I am hopeful that it will bring greater interaction within the community and help families and young people encounter God.”