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.
A week after Pentecost, the celebration of Spirit and a week before the Summer Solstice, Oxford Forest Church came together in Wytham woods again. We are wanting to see it in every season for a year. We were to be reflecting on the gifts of the sun, at it’s strongest energy waxing towards the longest day bringing light, warmth, colour and abundance already noticed in our gardens, hedgegrows and fields. We also celebrated the presence of Spirit who gives life in all its fullness. So we were thinking of fullness and wholeheartedness in our own lives.
We opened in a circle holding hands using a very simplified version of an opening from Forest Church’s Bruce Stanley. Grounding ourselves in Spirit’s grace and abundance and then taking three mindful breaths with the earth beneath us, the sky above us and the trees around us. We then asked for peace in the north, south, east and west and then asked Spirit for her blessing on our circle.
Then we walked deeper into the woods and Dr Andy Gosler, a University Research Lecturer in Ornithology & Conservation who has been studying at Wytham for over 30 years took all of us to see a bird box. This was a real treat as Andy reached in and brought out a not quite yet fledged Great Tit baby. Strangely the adults were more aghast than the children who may have thought this was quite normal behaviour! I mean aghast both that it was “allowed” which of course it is for a scientist – the bird had already been ringed, and awed with amazement at seeing a baby bird close up, and with it’s mouth open ready for food.
Then the children went off to build a nest together from things they found on the ground. The adults were led into a mindful stand/sit-spot. Firstly noticing through our senses the place we were in. Then paying attention to ourselves, noticing body sensations and then our inner selves and allowing that to be with compassion. Finally enquiring, “what does ‘fullness’ mean to me?” Then we shared together – a deer, a hare, blue damsel flies and many varieties of birdsong had been observed along with other personal things.
Then we returned to the children to tell each other what we had been doing. The nest – a green nest made of oak leaves among other things was incredibly beautiful. Then we had a tea ceremony, made of 3 plants from the summer’s abundance – chamomile for peace and rest, dandelion leaves for cleansing, and elderflower for strength of voice and song. We passed the tea (which was delicious!) around with the words “may the blessing of God’s abundance be with you”. And closed with the Celtic blessing – Deep peace of the running wave to you…..
The afternoon felt full and light and easy – much like summer at it’s height and the unforced rhythms of grace when we just allow Spirit to do what she will. May the blessings of abundance be with us all, wherever we find ourselves.