(RNS) Church goes ‘wild’ as believers and seekers head for the trees

Blackmer now holds two services on Sundays out in the woods. In extreme weather he dips into a little barn with a wood stove because, he notes, “it’s hard to be reverential if you are shaking with cold.”

The worshippers consider the moose, bears, deer and foxes as part of their small congregation. The human head count is typically a dozen people who gather to pray and “look to the Psalms where the land and trees are singing God’s praises,” Blackmer says.

Wild Church leaders are careful to distinguish what they do from paganism.

“My tradition is Christian but my objective is not that people become Christians but that they find a way to connect with holiness that is authentic for them — an expanded way of living and an expanded sense of Christ,” says Loorz.

At one service, a dozen people tiptoed across the river to join Loorz. Neil Barnsdale, who grew up Presbyterian but drifted away from church, says Church of the Wild offered him “recognition of nature with a Christian underpinning.”

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