Whenever I sit around the campfire, I find myself drawing close to the people with me and to God. I have experienced campfires as part of all age worship, forest school activities and children or youth events, and I discover time and time again that I am melting marshmallows on holy ground.
The campfire offers us a place to sit and share stories, hopes and fears. It is a place to experience friendship. Around the campfire, I find my heart is set on fire with love as we share food, sing songs and watch the fire. A fire that reminds me of the Lion Aslan in the Narnia stories, it is not safe, but it is good; it is a holy fire that will not burn me but will set me spiritually ablaze.
Campfire worship helps me to remember and to experience the stories that have formed my Christian faith. Around the fire, I remember the burning bush story that revealed God to Moses (Exodus 3) and the pillar of fire God used to lead his people across the desert (Exodus 13). I remember the flame of light that came into the world when Jesus was born and how the darkness extinguished this light at the crucifixion of Jesus.
The flames of the fire teach us God’s story, as we remember the disciples on the beach cooking fish with the risen Christ! (John 21: 9) and how the flames of the Holy Spirit rested on the disciple’s heads bringing to birth the early church (Acts 2: 3). The activities we do and the wonder of creation around the campfire reveal the creator God, with people time and again sharing how they feel closer to God sitting around the fire, surrounded by His creation.
Campfire church in our villages has been born from all these experiences, after school on every other Monday, as we encounter God. Together, we have written prayers and enjoyed writing a gathering song (to the tune of London’s burning) ‘Campfires burning, draw nearer, God is with us, Alleluia.’
The campfire worship has inspired a new generation to explore being church together in our villages and is working across the ages and attracting people who don’t usually come to church on a Sunday. We have learned to make an indoor fire in winter, so we can gather all year round.
Rural Ministries are helping us to explore campfire worship and to dream that this gathering might become a fresh expression of rural church in Somerset. Ideas we have started to explore include walks of wonder, spring lambs and primrose treasure hunts, bramble rambles, wild winter walks, dawn Easter services, night walks and star gazing, sunsets and silence, foraging for God, wild side experiences, pumpkin prayers, boat building and the boat stories of Jesus, bridges of faith, going on a prayer hunt, teddy bear picnics and praise, outdoor labyrinth, outdoor prayer stations, still sits, blindfold walks, photography and faith, painting to music and den building.
Recently, we were sitting under a wonderful den in the woods, reflecting on Psalm 91 together. We talked about what it means for God to be our shelter, thinking about God’s protection, how he provides and encourages us, as we work together sharing our different skills and ideas and the things we find. The feast of life was shared using marshmallows, grapes and homemade cake, as we tasted and reminded ourselves that God was good!
The Spirit seems to be fanning something into flame beyond our villages. The interest in our campfire worship and outdoor worship is growing across Somerset and works well in rural areas.
If this article is sparking a fire in you to develop campfire worship in your local village, do get in touch.
Rev Selina Garner, Wellington District Team Vicar and Missioner