Norfolk churches urged to get out and get wild
Ex-forest ranger Charlie Houlder-Moat wants to encourage churches across Norfolk to get outside and get wild, as part of her developing Wild Church Norfolk ministry, Kevin Gotts reports.
Charlie, has an extensive background in outdoor education, having worked as an outdoor instructor and forest ranger, and is now a licensed lay minister passionate about growing Wild Church Norfolk, a mission movement that takes church outside its walls.
She said: “I have always been drawn to nature. Wild church enables me to combine my passions of creating community and enabling exploration of both the natural world and spirituality.”
Charlie leads an active life - she is a lay minister and licensed to Rev Tim Yau and the Mission Enablers team in the Diocese of Norwich. They created the Wild Church Hub, East Anglia, to enable, equip and encourage others to set up something similar in their communities. Her paid employment is as Families Worker in Military Chaplaincy for the Methodist Forces Board. She is called to support this specific community and offer pastoral care in addition to support groups, activities and events.
“My specific calling is to equip those inside the church to move church outside their buildings to reach those outside the church. For me I suppose there is a three-fold vision to Wild Church. Firstly, the holistic nature to support the whole person – physical health, mental wellbeing and their spirituality.
Secondly, to create community around a shared love of being outdoors. Finally, creating space for awe and wonder to be cultivated so people come to appreciate the natural world on a personal level and are stirred to do something about caring for our planet.
“If lockdown has taught us anything it is the importance of community, the importance of our outdoor spaces and the importance of bringing things online,” said Charlie. “For Wild Church Norfolk this has been especially important for those who cannot get outdoors to enjoy wild spaces for themselves.
“The benefits of connecting with nature are well documented – from lowering stress and boosting your immune system to increasing creativity and elevating mood.”
Those who have taken part are enthusiastic: “Thank you so much for the Wild Church service, it was the first one I had seen. I found it uplifting and moving,” said one.
“Having a five-year-old son who never sits still in church, he loves to go round ‘helping’. On a personal level, I find the spiritual headspace offered more relaxing than a service indoors,” said another.
“I believe this is a great way to bring the young, environmentalists, nature lovers to the God of creation when they would not enter church for the formal services,” said another participant.
Charlie said: “There isn’t a prescribed model for Wild Church – all you need is a few people and some nature. The diversity of Wild Church is what makes it so exciting! I offer a ‘menu’ – there are opportunities to explore spirituality, time to sit with silence, guided meditation, noise and activity, care for creation plus wild walks for worship and wellbeing.”
The Wild Church Hub for East Anglia is in the process of collating information about where Wild Churches operate in the area to make this easier for enquirers to find. They are also in the process of creating video guides and resources to equip newcomers to set up their own.
During the first lockdown Charlie moved Wild Church Norfolk online: www.facebook.com/wildchurchnorfolk and to a YouTube channel: Wild Church Norfolk
If you need some support or have any questions then please do get in touch with Charlie who says she would love to hear from you on 07581 408847 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pictured above is Charlie Houlder-Moat.