Author Archives: Alex Bienfait

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Walk Church 28th July – St. Dunstan Cranbrook 1:45 for 2pm

This month Walk Church starts from St. Dunstan Cranbrook, meeting outside the church 1:45pm for 2pm. ( Church: TN17 3HA)

We explore Angley Wood, a beautiful varied broadleaf and conifer wood with a number of interesting earth works, which tell of Cranbrook’s past economy.

Further information: The route is 5.6km (3.5miles).  Although no livestock was encountered, though walking this week one field had evidence of cows in the recent past.     There are no stiles.  There are some short moderately steep sections, and the path is very uneven in places.  Cranbrook as several car parks, a couple of minutes walk away from the church.

Looking forward to seeing you.  Please contact Alex for further details.

Walk Church – 23rd June 2019 – St. Mary’s High Halden

June’s Walk Church starts from St. Mary’s High Halden 1:45pm for 2pm.  We have a route of about 4 miles route to the south of High Halden village, taking in part of a Roman Road, lots of wide views of the Wealden landscape.  Tea and juice will on offer in High Halden church when we return.

Other helpful information: At the time of walking, the only livestock encountered were horses.  The distance is about 4 miles.  There were a number of stiles, and the route is fairly level.  The main hazard are rabbit holes hidden by long grass and undergrowth, and a couple of places have nettles as below, but nothing really dense.  Parking, on the road outside High Halden church.

Hope to see you there.

Walk Church – 28th April 2019 – Challock Church

This month’s Walk Church starts from Challock Church, St. Cosmos and St. Damian, TN25 4DB. Meet outside the church 1:45 for 2pm, Sunday 28th April. The first Sunday after Easter.

Challock church is an example, where the village has moved away. In this case due to the creation of a toll road, that sucked the economic life up the hill. It has left the church marooned in a beautiful isolation. The other notable feature of the church, is a set of modern murals depicting Challock village life. Further information on the paintings click here

Other helpful information: Some of the fields have sheep and lambs – so dog owners please be particularly careful. We have a planned walk of about 6km, (4 miles), taking in some of the dry chalk valleys, and parkland of the surrounding countryside. There are a number of stiles. Parking will be available in front of the church.  Hope to see you.

Walk Church – 24th March – Sheldwich

This month, Sunday 24th March we meet outside St. James, Sheldwich, ME13 0PA. 1:45 for 2pm.

It’s an area a bit further from where we have started most Walk Church sessions so far. So this month brings different scenery. There are wide open fields, but also sections of woodland. We also have a geological feature of interest a wide open dry chalk valley. Here the path gets quite steep. Crossing the valley, and coming back up out, we take in a small section of sweeping parkland, before heading back to Sheldwich church.

Arriving back at Sheldwich Church we will be welcomed with tea and cake, generously offered by the local congregation!

Helpful information: The route which is just under 4 miles. When it was walked, no livestock was encountered, but cattle and sheep have been in some of the fields. There are a couple of short steep sections. There was only one low stile. There is good parking available in a public car park outside Sheldwich

 

Walk Church – What is it?

I have been asked to contribute article for the Arthur Rank Institute Magazine Country Way.  Here is what I’ve written.

Once a month for the past nine months, a group from the Diocese of Canterbury has experimented with taking church outdoors. This is a congregation that meets at a church but then goes out to experience God by walking in the countryside: kind of ramblers’ church, this is Walk Church.

Walks can take between 90 minutes and two hours and involve stops to hear the day’s Gospel reading, offer reflections, pray and share our responses. There may be a period of walking in silence while we pay attention to what we see and hear around us. There is also plenty of fellowship and chat. Someone usually brings some cake which we share as we stand by a path or sit under a tree, an informal communion.

Churches are often served by good networks of footpaths, a reminder of their once central position in rural communities. With our walks, we create a community of faith as we journey together, tell stories, share food, listen to the Bible and pray. We never really know how things will go. There might be a wonderful offering of food on a cold winter’s day, or we may have random incidents which we can’t predict, such as the person who trod on an upturned horseshoe (fortunately with no serious injury). Each meeting is a pilgrimage and an adventure.

Part of the purpose of Walk Church is to train ourselves to keep our senses open to the what there is to be seen and experienced around us – a bee swarm, the tragic remains of a run-over grass snake, a biting, piercing wind. With different people and different paths each time, Walk Church is a community that keeps remaking itself.

The numbers taking part have ranged from 20 to 6. While popularity might be expected to be weather dependant, our most recent walk, on a bitterly cold January day with a driving wind, attracted 18. Right from its inception, Walk Church has demonstrated an appeal across the generations with families, young people and dogs invariably part of the group.

The inspiration for Walk Church is twofold. First, there is the growing popularity of communal walking, with burgeoning numbers of organised health walks and rambling groups. We wanted to explore whether there were people who were uninspired by the experience of sitting in a pew but who still wanted to explore questions of faith and pray together with others in a more open, less formal setting. In fact, most sessions of Walk Church have attracted a mix of committed churchgoers and people who are not part of any other congregation.

Secondly, Walk Church is also about working out how faith can help us better value our natural world. Indoors, we have struggled to make the environment a theme that is exciting for our worship, but being outdoors will hopefully excite our imagination and passion. We may appreciate in our heads that there is a looming environmental crisis but how can we respond if we don’t have passion?

The writer and environmentalist Wendell Berry said *: “We need to fall in love with the natural world again… We take care of the things which we love.”

* Start the Week, Radio 4, 1 May 2017

Walk Church – 25th November – Great Chart

It was the “Black Friday” weekend. A weekend when retailers try to make us feel we should be buying now, and not be left out. Instead, ten of us and three dogs, celebrated the richness of each others company, and wonderful beauty of our natural surroundings, with a 4 mile walk in the Goddington estate Ashford.  It also helped that, thanks to Jane and Moncia, we had baked some tasty snacks which tasted especially good on this cold dank November day. Thank you it was a special afternoon.

We don’t meet in December, so our next Walk Church is Sunday 27th January, when we meet at Pluckley.  Hope to see you then.

Walk Church High Halden 23rd September 2018

What an amazing rapid change in weather we experienced on Sunday. Torrential rain giving way to blue sky and bright sunshine. Thank you for everyone who came and joined us yesterday. We were thinking about Jesus’ teaching about listening to children. Ellen (aged 10) pointed out she didn’t have a vote, but felt strongly about how much money goes into schools and hospitals!

We walked down what felt like secret Green lanes, ancient roads that for centuries have been through fares. Sadly now too often used now either for fly tipping or playing with 4 x 4’s.

As I gazed upon a pile of burnt dumped rubbish had to hear again Jesus’ challenge us to listen to those without a voice. What of our planet, nature and the systems that support our life?

Our next walk is on the 28th October venue to be arranged. We were due to go to Great Chart, but this has been postponed. Do let me know any ideas for future routes, and meeting places.

See the photos clicking the Facebook link (See right of webpage). While we were reading the Gospel an enthusiastic curious congregation of bullocks gathered around.

Walk Church Sunday 23rd September

Meet 1:45pm for 2pm outside St. Mary’s church High Halden

Today I have walked the route for our next Walk Church. Peter Deacon, a lifelong resident of High Halden, took me over the rolling hills of the High Weald around his village. As well as enjoying the views he gave a wonderful oral history of the landscape.

As with our previous walks, the distance will be about 4 miles, and a walking time of just under two hours. On the day, we will also have stops for readings, prayer and reflection, so it’s probably best to allow 3 hours to get back to High Halden – but it could be less.

The walk includes one high but stable stile, and one stile which is of normal height a but a bit unstable. We’ll be walking along Green Lane which can get churned up by four-wheel drive off-roaders. Unless it continues to stay very dry, I suggest you come in wellies: even in these dry conditions the track had some big puddles to cross. Final point, one of the field’s had livestock, both cattle and sheep.

Look forward to seeing you.

Walk Church Meeting Sunday 21st July 2018.

At the Tickled Trout, Wye.

Seven of us gathered on Sunday 22nd July, at the Tickled Trout Pub, Wye, to reflect on the two sessions of Walk Church, we’ve had so far and talk about responses to the questionnaire. The survey had 9 responses

General
All the responses to the survey, and everyone at the meeting were enthusiastic about Walk Church. With both sessions, we have had amazing bright sunny weather, it’s hard to know how we’ll feel, when it gets colder and wetter. One of the most important things we noted for future walks is the need to be clearer about time expectations.

Future dates and times:
Sunday mornings are not available for Alex any more. We therefore considered alternatives. Feedback tells us the best is a Sunday afternoon.

Setting a fixed Sunday of the month was thought to be better than setting ad-hoc dates. This is likely to be the 4th Sunday in the month.

Length of walk?
Most responses thought the two walks were the right length. Both were about 4 miles. We are planning that this should be the maximum length for future walks.

Venues
People coming to Walk Church are drawn from a wide variety of places, but the majority so far, are based in the Tenterden Ashford area, so for the moment we will focus venue around these locations.

We discussed the different contexts Walk Church could be set in. For instance, it might sometimes be worth trying an urban environment?

The experience of Walk Church?

Responses to the amount of prayer, Bible reading and silence all suggested this was about right. The question that had the most diverse response was “Discussion”. With a few thinking there was too much, but several more suggesting we could have had more!

Health and Safety
We check out each route prior to leading a session. Participants are encouraged to wear approapiate walking shoes, and clothing. So far we’ve had two incidents. One with a person standing on a stray horse shoe. On another walk one person slipped, fell, but twisted her knee, on a muddy section of track.

Other things
We’ve had a couple of people very keen on singing. So we may try that out!