What Makes a Wild Church a Church?
What Makes a Wild Church Wild?
what makes a “wild church” wild?
We Meet Outside Holding services outside, directly connecting with the natural world in one way or another is an essential aspect of a Wild Church.
Some churches are privileged to gather in the woods or in an oak grove—rain or shine. But “wildness” doesn’t need to be mean completely untamed space. Some wild churches meet in parks, off trails on the edges of their town, or meet in the land surrounding their church buildings for Solstices and Equinoxes. Laurel Dykstra’s church, Salal & Cedar, in Vancouver, BC met in a Costco parking lot to worship among the hundreds of crows who roost in the trees planted there.
As Wendell Berry says, “There are no unsacred places. There are only sacred places and desecrated places.” Wild Church can re-sacralize Place.
Nature is Preacher and Co-Congregant. Wild Church is not simply a pretty location for a “regular, indoor” worship service. The move outside is a move toward the sacred indwelling of All that Is. It is a decision to develop spiritual practices that expand the“beloved community” beyond people of different colors and cultures to beyond people altogether.
As Thomas Berry says, “Nature is not a collection of objects, but a communion of subjects".” Wild Churches approach the more-than-human Others in our watersheds as sacred others, others who mirror us, with whom we are inter-dependent in our homes.
The prayers, liturgies, sermons, and songs of Wild Churches include and integrate the members of the natural world. Most churches include a contemplative time of Wandering: 10-45 minutes of solo time to engage directly with the Holy on the land. When Jesus said, “Consider the lilies..” I’m pretty sure he meant REALLY consider them, meditate and listen to them.
A “kindred” relationship with the land and all who dwell there is both individually and culturally restorative and important, common to all native peoples and forgotten by our culture. Wild Church seeks to restore this relationship.
What makes a “Wild Church” a Church?
We Meet in Community. Lots of people say “nature is my church,” and research shows that many if not most people have experienced the numinous—felt closest to God—in nature. The difference with Wild Church is one of intention.
A hike in the Tetons is a spiritual experience, and a glorious sunset summons inner Hallelujahs. But, Wild Church is about going to your own local version of wilderness, into your own watershed, on purpose, together, to practice the presence of God.
The communal experience of Wild Church is foundational. We honor those who have been in relationship with this land before us, the native, indigenous peoples who lived here for thousands of years before our ancestors, in communion with the land and with God. We enter into relationship with the land respectfully, asking permission and showing gratitude.
Many churches include a practice of contemplative prayer, of listening and responding, of conversation with the Sacred in relationship with the more than human others. This mirroring in relationship with nature is then mirrored again as congregants share their experiences with one another when they come back together again.
Grounded in the Christ Tradition. In most Wild congregations, the pastors are affiliated with a Christian denomination, but many, if not most, of the congregants are not. Evangelization, if there is any, is not to recruit new members into any dogma, creed, or even some new “wild church” religion, but to invite people into a direct, sacred relationship with an untamed God, the land, each other, and creatures who share their home, and into a deeper relationship with their own wild untamed soul.
Wild Churches are being started by pastors from many different denominations…or non-denominations. They are being started by lay people and by people who struggle with how much to emphasize the Christian affiliation because so many in their communities struggle with language or history of the Christian Story more than the reality of Christ and the message of love and wholeness that can be read from the First Book of Revelation, Nature herself, embraced by the early and medieval Church.