Gloucester Outdoor Church meets outdoors every week, whatever the weather. We meet by the bandstand in Gloucester Park on Tuesdays at 12:30. We have an informal service with singing, Bible reading, discussion and a mini-sermon, prayers, and the bread and cup. We’re led by an ecumenical team of Catholic and Protestant trustees. Come along and join us! Our charity number is 1165187. Contact: 07874 751543. There’s more photos here.
An outdoor church meets mainly outdoors, not in a building. They are for “homeless” and housed people. Outdoor churches bring the gifts of the church to the open air. There are 50+ worldwide.
Why outdoors? Jesus came from heaven to earth to be with us. We go outdoors to be with those who can’t go to indoors church, because they don’t feel they fit in, or are scared. We are outside in all weathers, to express the love of Jesus who was at times outdoors in all weathers. Being outdoors brings us closer to creation, which God created and expresses his heart. Jesus often taught outdoors, pointing out things in nature during his parables.
This picture sums up our vision: communion being shared on really rough concrete ground. And as it is shared, grass starts growing up between the cracks in the concrete. Jesus died to redeem the world. As his body and blood are shared, new life springs up, in lives, and in creation. “Her wastelands will be like the garden of the Lord.” (Is 51:3). Many thanks to Philip Wood, client at Gloucester soup kitchens, for this photo. His blog can be found http://www.philwoodgloucester.blogspot.co.uk/
Gloucester Outdoor Church’s history: We met in 2013 with the same vision. God inspired us to start mini-picnics with street folk in March 2014. God inspired the street folk to tell us the best places to meet and to help us hugely. In April 2014 we started informal outdoor services for, on average, 5 people. God looked after us: it only rained on us once. One time we ran out of cups and a homeless ma
n turned up with 40 of them for us. The same man wrote and conducted an incredibly sensitive service for his friend in a local hospital. An ex-homeless woman gave us a table and encouraged us with great wisdom. A man living in a hostel was a continuous encouragement.
We had support from people who helped us with liturgy, managing volunteers, advising us, creating a songbook for us, encouraging us, and praying for us: at least 60 people and 6 churches pray for us. We prayed a lot, and found ourselves spiritually attacked, very stretched, in constant need of God. There was an enormous learning curve as we tackled writing policies and a huge risk assessment, pastoral issues, and navigating relationships. We were given hundreds of pounds, holding crosses, a free holiday retreat, a photo for a logo, sleeping bags and cakes. We learned from the street folk who gave us an example of generosity, taught us practical ways to navigate the streets and resolve conflict, confronted our lack of love, and taught us beautiful lessons about the Bible.
In Summer 2014, God directed us to concentrate on inviting the people who seemed most committed to outdoor church. He started strengthening our tiny community. We went on a mini-pilgrimage and on retreat. God also directed us to build relationships with local Christian leaders. We met and prayed with 22 of them individually and at an information evening, and the sense emerged that: “You are a tiny part of the united church in Gloucester. How can we support you?”
In terms of formal structure, we are ecumenical and have lovely trustees from various denominations including Catholic, a our street folk have a congregant representative. We support local interdenominational prayer meetings to work for unity in Gloucester. The police and Gloucester Council have been very helpful God supported one of us with an employer who provided hugely helpful training.
We continued meeting informally throughout the winter and started formal services in January 2015 outdoors in Gloucester.
At the time of writing (Sept 2017), we have grown to about 10 people in winter and 15 people in summer. We celebrated our 3rd anniversary in April 2017. We feel we have a good solid community. We have been massively blessed by the 116 people who’ve attended at least one service. We’ve enjoyed putting on 2 fetes inspired by one of our folk. Recently we saw 2 people become Christians, and one wants to be baptized. We celebrated our We also saw God heal someone’s ankle so they no longer need crutches. It is an exciting rollercoaster of a ride!
If you’re interested in setting up your own outdoor church, see these resources/policies. God bless you!
- Prayer: sign up for a tiny monthly prayer email.
- Time: come and learn from folk on the street.
Holding crosses, little angels or crosses, prayer beads, icons, blank cards. Lego, cuddly toys. Small tambourines/drums/shakers/other instruments. Sleeping bags, caps, waterproof footwear.Bibles (not KJV), in any language. Bible commentaries. Skills: administration, bookkeeping, music, research, local history, translation, website. Money to cover our largest expense: £300 for Public Liability Insurance.
Please DON’T give us food or clothing (except gloves/hats/scarves).
We want to thank many groups who’ve helped us over the years (many apologies if we haven’t mentioned you here):
www.thewordis.co.uk – ethical Christian T-shirts
Tescos – provided a lot of free food
Many organisations and churches in Gloucester
St. Mary Magdalene’s Church Twyning, Cirencester Baptist Church, Barnwood Trust, Gloucester Cathedral, StreetChurch Edinburgh, All Hallows Church in South Cerney and many other individuals for donations
Finally, 2 poems to bless you with, from Phil Wood in Gloucester, UK, used with his permission:
The Price to Pay
I walked the path of righteousness,
My head was held up high.
I didn’t care which way I went,
Or ask the reason why.
It seems I walked for several miles,
My mind had gone astray.
And now I found that I was lost,
And I’d erred along the way.
I looked, but I could see no sign,
To tell which way to go.
But then, a light, a chink of light,
Started to slowly glow.
Was this a beacon shining bright?
To guide me on my way?
Or just a game inside my head,
The devil likes to play?
As I slowly walked towards the light,
It grew into a giant tower.
And there, beside the road a sign,
Righteousness, in only half an hour.
And when I got to righteousness,
On the gate there was a sign,
“Halt all those who enter here,
Will have to pay a fine.
As I was reading down the list,
At the prices that were there,
The sins of every man on earth,
Was the burden I would bear.
They put me in a loin cloth white,
And a yoke around my neck,
But after only three days’ work,
My body was a wreck.
Bones were aching every one,
My muscles were so tense.
With no one there to comfort me,
My suffering was immense.
The burden they had placed on me,
Was too much for me to bear.
Then a young man came to me,
And promised it to share.
The young man came, he took the yoke,
And cut it into two.
And so together, side by side,
The task, was easier to do.
And as we worked the land so hard,
Quickly it starts to rain.
The plough ran quickly through the soil,
And took away the strain.
We ploughed the field within a day,
Finishing our task.
What is your name, why did you come?
Were the questions that I ask.
The young man smiled and looked at me,
The reason that he came?
To share the burden of mankind,
And Jesus was his name.
And the second poem:
A Glorious Garden
As he lay there in a Hospital bed,
All alone in his own room,
With no one there for company,
Just sadness, pain and gloom.
He was tired so He closed his eyes,
Then he drifted into space.
A white light just in front of him,
Shone brightly in his face.
His parents who were long lost gone,
Were standing at a gate,
They beckoned him to follow them,
Before it was too late.
And as he went towards the light,
His parents urged him on.
Saying “welcome son please follow us,
Your suffering will be gone”.
The large gates slowly opened,
And as he walked inside,
His family of long lost friends,
All greeted him with pride.
There in a glorious garden,
He watched some children play,
Then they made him bathe in waters deep,
To wash his sins away.
A man took him by the hand,
And gently lay him down,
Beneath the waters of the lake,
he thought that he might drown.
It was then that he realised,
As he gently cupped his head,
The man himself was Jesus Christ,
And he was…. already dead.
It was at that very moment,
Behold a wondrous thing!
He had no pain or suffering,
And a choir began to sing.
As he looked back at his family,
They all started to applaud,
And the choir sang “Alleluia ,
He is born again, Praise the Lord”.
P Wood 07/03/15