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Spring has Sprung

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Oxford Forest Church met again last weekend at Wytham Woods to celebrate the first day of Spring in bitterly cold windy weather but without the wintry storms that were promised. Equinox means equal night and Lent may have come from the word to lengthen, as the days grow longer. We were considering the new things that are emerging, that may be what we took into the mid-winter darkness last time or that may not have yet sprung to life to order with the daffodils. The invitation was to offer hospitality to our hearts whatever condition we came in which is the task in Lent anyway.

We called the Directions, this time Franciscan style which I had learnt from my fellow Foresters from other parts of the country ie called in Brother Air and Sister Water etc. Because the beginning was tough for littlies last time, we got them to run from cardinal point to cardinal point, a bit like a massive game of rounders.

Listen to the earth! The seeds are stirring
The buds are breaking
The birds whose song was silenced by winter
are singing of new things.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

Look at the earth!
Waking up with colour in petal and shoot.
The browns and greys turn green and fat again.
Even after flooding and saturation and suffering
the tide of new life cannot be held back
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

And so we shake out our wintered souls
expectant but sluggish,
yet to pierce the cold crust of earth.
All that we are, we offer
for winter is past and spring is come
and the longing in our hidden hearts, you will never turn away.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

Then we walked up the sheep hill, watching the sheep as we went. Matt introduced us to deer ears and owl eyes. Then I led the adults off on a meditation walk pausing to look and listen every now and again and off to our sit spots. The children stayed in the wood and did some games and drew the new things they could see, especially tiny violets. Then Tim led us in a mindful meditation inviting us to nurture and protect the new things that are growing and then we went back down the hill to where Becks had a fire waiting. Other Matt had brought his (beautiful) harmonium along and some of us had brought drums and we sang a chant he had written “unless a grain of wheat falls and dies it remains a single seed…..” and then we spoke these words and then closed the circle.

What is this mysterious life that hides in cold times and darkness
and returns in full grown gladness?

Living Presence, in this Lenten season, help us to perceive the sights and sounds of growth as the earth springs with new life:
the days brighten
the shoots rise
the birds sing
the frogs spawn
the branches spread
the woods echo
the light breaks forth
the rains fall
the petals open

As we bring all that is emerging in our hearts
turn our faces towards the light of your love.
May we trust the new thing that you are birthing in us
and know your compassion for all that waits to be set free.
As we leave this place, may we be awakened
to the promise of your risen life.

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

c. Tess Ward 2014

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