Rain or sun, winter or summer, Outdoors Church meets for hiking services in the Peak District, a national park in northwest England.
The pioneering project began ironically as a short-term church community for Pastor Helen Lawson and Pastor Kate Barclay in their transition from traditional church leadership roles at Sheffield Church of the Nazarene to eventually planting a new work.
“We decided the first thing we would do is to try and get back to basics with God and church,” Lawson said. “At that time, we started this thing called Pilgrimage, which was a walk outdoors every other week to share faith in a very non-structured way.”
They didn’t expect their weekly hiking service itself would become a church plant. But with four families they’ve been gathering regularly for the outdoor hiking service. They developed a liturgy and shared communion in a picnic setting.
And nobody wanted to stop.
“The main appeal is that everybody has young children and have struggled to find church service attendance helpful,” Lawson explained. “We all really thrive on being outdoors and bodily connecting to our Creator by enjoying, worshiping, discipling in that space. We have friends who we can imagine getting a lot out of joining us so we’ll see.” Three of the families have church background. The fourth family is not. The ones and twos we get here or there tend to be people who don’t go to church but really connect with spirituality and outdoors.
“We do it in almost all weather. I can’t recommend it enough; it’s been absolutely brilliant.”
Because the group formed as a church plant unintentionally, the vision for its future is still developing. Lawson said they are looking for a small space to rent so that after their hiking service is finished, they can warm up with hot drinks, food, and play some games together.
“If it grows, we’ll sort it out and do something more substantial, and if it doesn’t, we’ll just be thankful for what it’s given us right now.”