Worshiping in the Woods

Stephen Blackmer ’12 M.A.R., ’83 M.F.

Church of the Woods meets on 106 acres of woods and wetlands in Canterbury, NH, about 90 minutes
north of Boston.
We gather in the woods, or in our small barn during cold or wet weather. The service opens with silence, song, and prayer, followed by readings from the Bible and other texts. After a brief homily, people fan into the forest for 20 minutes of reflection, listening to the woods, allowing human bodies and words to encounter forest bodies and words.
We take seriously the repeated Gospel observation that “Jesus went alone up the mountain to pray.” (Matthew 14:23)
Drawn back by bells, participants share reflections, observations, questions, and prayers. The service continues with the Eucharist, offering bread and wine to the land as well as to the human worshipers. Church of the Woods (see kairosearth.org for more information, including a Church of the Woods liturgy) meets weekly. Visitors and groups are warmly welcome.
Church of the Woods is part of the Wild Church Network, a growing community of churches in North America that are reconnecting Christian practice with the natural world. (See wildchurchnetwork.com.)
In our weekly liturgy we pray this to God: “We ask that you restore us when we lose the way of oneness with you and your creation. Be with us as we wander in that lonely wilderness, strengthen us as we return, renew us in the awareness of your ever-present love, and return us to your ways of love, compassion, and service.”