Church of the Woods, Canterbury

Featured image: A wooden barn provides shelter, warmth and a simple place to worship in the cold months.

On Sunday, December 3, I took the invitation worship at Church of the Woods in Canterbury. Rev. Steve Blackmer is an Episcopal priest, but he leads Church of the Woods, which is made up of all kinds of faith backgrounds. By church standards, the Church of the Woods is new, only a few years old. However, it has already been featured in Harper’s Magazine for its unique fusion of Christian faith and environmental spirituality (a good read for those who want to know more).

So, what happens on a Sunday morning at Church of the Woods? For years I have wanted to be there, but my Sunday morning commitment to my own church prevented it. Now that I’m at the NH Council of Churches, I can share my experiences with you who might be skeptical or curious.

As a minister myself, I hear many people say that they experience God in nature. I’ve led many youth groups up Mount Kearsarge to talk about God’s majesty and power and to have a Biblical “mountaintop” experience. I’m an Eagle Scout who has done his share of camping and also in formation with Franciscans, who have a love of God’s creation. So, I knew I’d feel at home here.

Rev. Blackmer greeted me as my car pulled up and invited me inside the barn. Typically they hold their Communion services outdoors on a stone altar. But I came in December, so we are indoors for about half of the worship time. He stoked a wood-burning stove while others arrived. The crowd was about 10-12 people, close together for warmth. The service was like many in our churches: Bible readings, prayers and hymn-singing (beautiful a capella voices!).

Then, for about 20 minutes, we went outside and on our separate ways. I wandered and saw streams, ice and snow, mossy rocks and plenty of hibernating trees. When we returned, others had brought stones, branches and pine cones that seemed to speak to their encounter with God that morning. In place of a sermon, individuals spoke as to why this piece of Creation struck them. One parishioner volunteered to offer a song spontaneously. We concluded with Holy Communion and more hymns together.

Rev. Blackmer holds worship services at 9am and 3pm on Sundays, so please look up Church of the Woods for your own visit!

Would you like the NH Council of Churches to visit or to preach at your local congregation? Please send an invitation via email or a phone call and we will find a Sunday to join you!

 

Pine cones join traditional Altar decorations, alongside the bread and wine.
A welcome sign points the way along an unpaved road.
The only “robes” for this service were blaze orange because it is still hunting season.
A worshiper’s dog and the barn: “At what hour will the Master of the House come?”

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