Tess Ward is a hospice chaplain and writer of prayers and liturgies. She facilitates both traditional Christian services and more personal, spiritually focussed ceremonies. Her books include The Celtic Wheel of the Year and Alternative Pastoral Prayers.
Welcoming the Darkness……. in Whytham Woods
Yesterday we had our first Forest Church in Oxford. Those of us preparing had the joy of seeing a hare! There were 40-50 of us adults and children and we chose the theme of welcoming the darkness – before the light of Christmas or the Solstice. We called in the directions, went down to the woods where the children had a story and games and the adults had sit-spots to be and breathe in the woods and to think what we wanted to take into the darkness, what was little and fragile and needed to grow in the dark and what we may need to shed in order to let that happen…..especially with the stress of Christmas tide approaching. Then we sang a chant, did some mindfulness amongst the trees and leaves and went back where a fire was waiting for us. All the best laid plans went astray – we were meant to be coming back in the darkness (which it wasn’t quite at 4.00) but still we had the sunset instead – orange and scarlet across the sky and threw pieces of rosemary into the fire to let go of anything we needed to keep our intention as we go into the darkest part of the year. We passed round rosemary tea and chocolate cake to remind us to nourish that space. Then we thanked the directions and closed the circle. Here is the final blessing:
As we journey into the womb of this deep dark season
purify our intentions to keep the space open
so we may watch and wait for your presence
with clear eyes and willing hearts.
Let the earth teach us by her stillness
so we may cherish the darkness
and grow in kindness for your life
which shines in the light of all that lives.
Bless us as we leave this place
to find you in rest and quiet
and when the time comes,
to welcome the fresh born breath
of new beginnings.
c. Tess Ward 2013