Forest Church and Full Moon
Updated: Sep 5, 2020
a guest blog from Matt Arnold*
It was a lazy Sunday morning at the very end of May, nine weeks since the start of the UK COVID-19 lockdown when I was reading the social media comments of a few of my clergy friends bemoaning the effect of Lockdown on their churches. Locked church buildings, no singing allowed, and some denomination hierarchies forbidding even their ministers from going into their own buildings! As someone who has been involved in the Forest Church movement since 2012, I found all this panic slightly bemusing and, believing necessity is the mother of invention, spurred me to the creation of a project that would engage the worldwide members of this movement in a joint worship event.
As a Celtic Christian I have long since jettisoned the belief that church is a building and embraced the original concept that church is a gathering of people to worship the Eternal Creator together, as creation cheers us on. Is there any better place for worshipping our Creator than being outside in the great cathedral of the natural world; the trees form its pillars, the grass its flooring, the sky its roof, the sun, moon and stars its lighting and the sounds of wildlife provide the soundtrack for our worship. With this understanding of worship in mind, and given the blessing of being furloughed, I wondered how I might be able to help others move from worship being constrained in buildings on Sunday mornings and go outside to see the bigger vista and wonders of our Creator.
The moon is an object of great wonder, dancing around her partner earth. As she does so, she sustains her partner’s life by stirring up the waters of her sister, the sea. She is not owned by any religion, tradition or creed, and unconditionally shines her silvery beams upon the whole world. What a better way of scheduling a global worship event than to structure it around the moon?
Time was of the essence as it was a full moon in five days time! Thankfully I am a fairly efficient person who prefers to work smart, and had existing material I had written and led for the Moon Museum exhibitions at Leicester and Liverpool cathedrals. With some tweaking a ritual liturgy was crafted and volunteers from around the world were sourced via the Forest Church Facebook group. These volunteers duly recorded their parts, whether spoken or sung, on video and sent them to me for editing together. Calling the quarters involved people from the South (Australia), North (England) , West (America) and East (England – yes, okay, I couldn’t find a volunteer from somewhere in the Mid – Far East within the time). The aim was to produce an audio track initially; something which could be downloaded and listened to whilst on “Flight Mode” to avoid any unnecessary interruptions during the ceremony. Each person could perform this ceremony on their own, whether in their back yard, or further afield. As we had decided to perform this on Friday 5th June at 10pm in our respective time zones, we needed to have the track ready for those who would be performing the ceremony in Australia, 11 hours ahead of UK time, so we had four days to record and edit. At this point I would also like to thank Damh the Bard for his kind permission to use his track “The Voyage of Bran” as part of the ceremony soundtrack, a testimony to the fact that the natural world can bring groups together who are sadly often portrayed as being at odds with each other.
Thankfully we were able to put this together and on Friday 5th June at 10pm across the various time zones around the world, Forest Church members were able to praise and give thanks to our Creator structured around the wonders of the created moon (who also was blessed for her faithfulness in following her created purpose to sustain life on the earth). Many positive comments and photos came through following the event and my wife and I were personally treated to Lady Moonlight appearing from behind the clouds to bear witness to our worship of the Creator of the cosmos.
During the following month, a video was produced from the original files send to me (another benefit of furlough was that I was able to spend time learning Adobe Premier Pro), and is available on Youtube for anyone to watch and partake in at the appropriate time in the lunar cycle.
Does this mean I’m worshipping the moon? Not at all, merely giving thanks for her and blessing her, in the same way that bread and wine, people, the land at Rogationtide, ploughs and houses are blessed. Lady Moonlight simply framed and assisted our worship of our Creator, in the same way that some churches use strobe lights for their times of worship. She watched the raising of our heads and arms in adoration of One who lovingly crafted such a great Lamp of Grace for a creation he so loves and gave himself for.
Will there be more global Forest Church ceremonies? I’m sure there will be, given time.
* Matt Arnold is the editor of the Christian Parapsychologist journal and writes for two blogs:
With many thanks to Matt for his words, his support for the project and that spiritual creativity
Images: all photos c. Matt Arnold
September Full Moon: Wednesday 2nd - so we've just missed that but the October Full Moon is on the 1st so that gives you a whole lunar cycle to get your ideas together!
if you would like to share a service or ceremony you have created that honours the earth, drop us a line. Or take a look at our 100 Celebrations, 1000 Prayers page