Church in Nature

© Sarah Bourne
Published by Sarah Bourne on Wed, 27 May 2020 00:00
Sarah's blog

We have been privileged to “attend” on-line Church at Home every Sunday since the middle of March, which is provided by the considerable efforts of our Oxford diocesan brothers and sisters.  We have enjoyed thoughtful prayers, stimulating sermons, beautiful celebrations of communion and inspiring music of every style.  We have then met in community for virtual after-service Zoom coffee with our regular congregation members of St Mary’s, and it has been a joy to see familiar faces and dear friends as we all catch up on the past week. 

Within our own church community, we have started to live-stream Compline on Wednesdays at 8 pm, and Morning Prayer on Thursdays at 10.30 am and I know from the many people who have made contact with me that these services are radiating across the country and internationally as well.  Through technology, God is working His purpose out in ways which we could not have imagined 3 months ago!

But as well as Church at Home, and Church on-line, I have repeatedly experienced a deep sense of Church in Nature when taking our dog out for a walk in the beautiful countryside around where we live.   The May blossom was stunning and I can’t ever remember seeing such prolific cow parsley, or Queen Anne’s Lace, which (according to my investigations) originates somewhat surprisingly from the Nile valley, and yet I think of it as a quintessentially English hedgerow wildflower with its highly distinctive scent.  Coleridge clearly felt the same way:

To Nature by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 -1834)

It may indeed be fantasy when I 

Essay to draw from all created things 

Deep, heartfelt, inward joy that closely clings; 

And trace in leaves and flowers that round me lie  

Lessons of love and earnest piety. 

So let it be; and if the wide world rings 

In mock of this belief, it brings 

Nor fear, nor grief, nor vain perplexity. 

So will I build my altar in the fields, 

And the blue sky my fretted dome shall be, 

And the sweet fragrance that the wild flower yields 

Shall be the incense I will yield to Thee, 

Thee only God! and thou shalt not despise 

Even me, the priest of this poor sacrifice.

While nature continues to follow its yearly round, it’s quite difficult to remember that we are in a world of lockdown and pandemic, until I meet walkers coming in the opposite direction and we give each other a wide berth, whilst smiling broadly and wishing each other good morning.  If I were in Austria, I would delight in wishing every passer-by “Grüss Gott”  (May God bless you), but I can’t think of an equivalent English expression to express my sense of God’s presence and blessing as we encounter others in this wonderful Church in Nature.

Sarah Bourne – 27th May 2020


Mary P
Thank you Sarah
Roger Verrall
Many thanks for this and all your contributions.
Heather Clews
Thank you so much for the poem , To Nature, a lovely addition to my collection.... having read more contemporary work recently it's fabulous to go back to earlier times ..... I think poetry just works!

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