Yesterday we had our first experiment of Walking Church, which we titled, Walking Worship (simply because of the alliteration). This was inspired by Wood Green Mennonite Church experiments in London which I came across at the 2012 Greenbelt festival.
Meeting at 10am on a Sunday morning, we undertook an hours walk round a local woods, at toddler pace, with stops in three places. At each stop we paused to hear or reflect on some part of our theme. I’d picked Isaiah 44 as our reading as we were walking around some firs which were grown and felled in rotation to supply the joinery industry. In the passage, the carpenter takes a piece of wood and with some of it he builds a fire to heat himself, he roasts his meat over some of it, and with the rest, if fashions an and bows down to it and cries out for salvation. So we ended up thinking about what man-made things we rely on to save us in certain situations.
So at the first stop we heard the reading. At the second, a brief reflection on it, and at the third stop we joined in prayer. For the children, there was a wood-based scavenger hunt to keep them busy on the way, and the prayers were visualised by blowing large bubbles. After the walk we all decamped to the coffee area of a nearby Garden Centre.
Numbers were small – a few of our regulars had other commitments that morning and perhaps people didn’t feel confident enough in the format to invite friends along, so there were only four families. I was encouraged that the husband of one church member, who would usually not come near a conventional church service, felt able to cycle round the woods as we were doing our Walking Worship and to join us in the coffee shop afterwards, so he didn’t feel he was entirely excluded.
The route itself was a nice one, but the person who scoped out the walk remarked that a circular rather than linear route would have been better. After the final stopping place we found ourselves at our furthest point from the start, so of course we all had to walk back, but generally it was ok.
The content of each stop was squarely aimed at the adults, and this mean the adults felt they got something out of it. The kids were generally happy running around or following the bubbles, and were all pretty well-behaved, but I wonder if something more for them during the stops might have made more of an impression on them.
I had also hoped that people would naturally think about and discuss the theme or reflection as they walked, allowing time for people to process it. i don’t think this happened (although people did get a good chance to catch up whilst walking which is also valuable). Perhaps if I’d given a question to ponder on each section of the walk, it might have reinforced the theme a little more.
Overall, I was relatively happy although I still need to get feedback from those that came (and from those who opted to be elsewhere). At Christmas I’ve had the idea of doing a walking ’9 lessons and carols’ around our development, and we’ll have to decide as a core team whether to do another walking church before then.
If anyone else (outside of Wood Green) has done walking church, I’d be interested to hear your experiences.