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Ian Woodley
Woodland Worship
by Ian Woodley

Woodland WorshipWhy the cathedral is bigger than we've ever thought.

The conversation had taken an unusual twist. There I was, after a church meeting, listening to a lady who was speaking with passion about holding worship services in nearby woodland. She felt that there was no better place for honouring God than in the heart of his creation. Based on her genuine enthusiasm, it appeared that this spiritual activity had brought good things into her life. I must admit that, despite her energetic testimony, I did remain skeptical about the idea. The UK climate isn’t always reliable for a worship event in woodland – I most certainly would be a fair weather attendee.

Yet, I do enjoy a day out on the countryside. I always feel invigorated afterwards, with the worries and stresses of life seemingly put into proper perspective. I wonder if that is why this particular lady preferred her worship to be outdoors; perhaps being close up with nature brought this same balance of mind.

I’m a follower of Jesus; however, I’ve noticed that I spend a lot of my ‘spiritual time’ indoors. Bit odd really, when it looks like Jesus spent a lot of time outdoors, teaching both on mountains and on lake sides. He clearly noticed the world around him, often using the flora and fauna as illustrations. At the prompting of a book I was reading, I did once set off on a hike with the express ambition of thanking God for the beauty of all created things. It left a big impact on me. It really did feel that I had connected with God within his very own cathedral of nature.

Then I discovered there was more to learn. One day I was inspired by a couple who I watched picking up plastic washed in at a nearby beach. Having a spare carrier bag with me, I also started to pick up the rubbish on my walk. That day, this couple prompted me to stop just passing through the cathedral of nature. Instead, I was taught to actually appreciate what’s going on around me. Picking up the odd bit of plastic is only a small thing, but it has to be said that the countryside always looks better afterwards.

Which was the greater act of worship? My thanks giving hike, or my rubbish collecting ramble? I suspect that it isn’t about just choosing one of these activities. True worship involves an active life of doing both types of walk. I can’t ever see myself ever joining a church that runs services in woodland, but that hasn’t stopped me worshiping in the cathedral of nature. Every piece of rubbish picked up is worship in action; what better way is there to say thank you for creation?

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