Author Archives: Alex Bienfait

Walk Church Sunday 25th October 2020

One of the joys of the Kent country side is it’s variety, sometimes with small hidden pockets. A good example is Hothfield Common the destination for our next Walk Church on Sunday 25th October. In this area, the soil is largely acidic, and it results, in one of the few examples of heathland in Kent. Probably the prettiest time to visit will be when the heather is in flower, which is July to September, but having only just discovered this remarkable area, am keen we make a visit soon.

We will be meeting complying with the Coronavirus guidelines at the time; meeting in two groups of 6. I’ll be sending out further details next week, but if in the meantime you are keen to ‘book’ your place to join us please let me know.

Photo below: Hothfield Common

Walk Church Little Chart 26th July 2020

What a joy it was to reconvene Walk Church today. It was lovely to see familiar faces not seen for at least 4 months, as well as welcoming several new people to Walk Church.

Offering a virtual online version of Walk Church has defeated me these past 4 months of COVID lockdown, so it was good once again to feel the wind on our faces, experience the majesty of trees, and allow ourselves to be arrested by special views.

A group of 14 us gathered, and divided into two groups. We met mid way for a reflection, before continuing in our opposite directions. This worked amazingly well, the two groups returning to the spot we had started from within a few minutes of each other. But it the smaller groups also created less delay at stiles, and possibly a more intimate atmosphere, a chance for longer conversations with other people?

Prompted by our Gospel we reflected on Ash Trees. If you want to read more, about the live supported by these trees, here is link to an article in Small Woods magazine about these amazing trees.

‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’ Matthew 13:31

We plan to meet again Sunday 27th September.

The photo below, comparing English oak leaves with those of the Turkey oak.

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We’re constantly looking for ideas for future  walks, and we’d welcome you’re idea.   Here are guidelines for sorting a route: Choosing a route

 

Walk Church Staplehurst in October

Thank you everyone who joined us in Staplehurst today, contributing to a fantastic afternoon.

Walking in the bright autumn sunshine there was the crunch of acorns underfoot every oak. Sally was able to use these nuts to help us reflect on the paradox of new life, that grows out of decay and change.

With the abundance of acorns some shared thoughts and ambitions on how to cook with this overwhelming harvest. It was impressive to hear of Pauline’s patient efforts to cook them! The writer Richard Mabey says of acorns “the raw kernels are forbiddingly bitter to most palates, but chopped and roasted they can be used as a substitute for almonds”

Another potential abundant crop could have been fungi. But while many looked tempting, sadly none of us was confident enough to identity the mushrooms were safe. We might look forward to another time where we can be guided by an fungi expert.

Next Walk Church meets at Smarden Parish Church Sunday 24th November 2pm.

For pictures have a look at our face book page.  Click the this live link

All Saints, Staplehurst, 27th October 1:45pm for 2pm

Our next Walk Church is still just over a week away.  We meet Sunday 27th October, from All Saints Staplehurst, meeting outside the church 1:45pm for 2pm. (TN12 0AX)

We strike out across one of the ridges of Weald, initially walking with some good views either side of the ridge, then we drop down to the low Weald, before making our way across fields and woodland back to All Saints.

The route is 4miles (6.3km).  Some Sheep were encountered when checking out the the route, no cattle, but there was evidence of cows in the past.     There are about 4 stiles a couple quite high.

Hope to see you then.

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!