Walking churches involve walking … and church! The essentials of church take place on the journey: walking, talking, discussing, singing and praying. Whether round a city, on the docks, in the countryside, the snow or the summer, walking churches are great for connecting with people, creation, Jesus and the idea of pilgrimage.
Walking in creation gives you relaxation, quietness and helps you forget about your troubles, according to the poem “A Country Walk” by Philip Wood (client, Gloucester soup kitchen). It connects me to the land, myself and God in a modern dislocated world: I sing, reflect, pray and even dance as I journey, listening to” the heavens proclaiming the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1).
Jesus walked his land a great deal. The whole long section of Luke 9:51 – 17:11 seems to be a long undefined wander, with Jesus “doing church” – healing and teaching – on the way. People joined him naturally, drawn to new life. They join us naturally too, when they see Jesus in us, just as the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus joined Jesus on the journey.
There are some inspiring examples of walking churches. I joined Plain Church on Salisbury Plain for an outstanding morning. 15 of us (plus dogs) rampaged across to a wood, noticed that mainly the trees on the outside had fallen over in the strong winds (spiritual lesson: those on the outside of communities get taken out first), sang beautiful songs, before returning to a farmhouse for coffee, cakes, Jesus talk, worship and prayer. Tel: 01980 621712.
Philip Wood (not the Philip Wood mentioned above!) has had experience leading walking churches. This article and this BBC recording gives you an idea of what walking church could look and sound like. Also search Philip’s blog for references for “walking” to unearth some excellent ponderings. This is Philip’s Litany by the Wayside for walking churches to use as they journey.
There is an amazing walking church in the Titanic Quarter in Belfast Docks called The Dock which draws in the local community to a fresh, exciting expression of church: “… a church without a steeple, with no hymn books – not even a building or a congregation!” They have pulled in local community interest by listening carefully to people over a number of years, without losing the vitality and excitement that inspired the original vision. Their website has a number of excellent videos detailing the development of the vision, including this one (on the right) of the crowds that came to the launch.
Finally, the Two Saints Way is an 88-mile pilgrimage between Chester and Lichfield Cathedrals to help you recover “health in body, mind and soul”.
Both the Two Saints Way and Wood Green Walking Church have explored the connection between pilgrimage and hospitality – being “taken in” on the way. For example, a static church could provide hospitality for a walking church on pilgrimage.
If you have a walking church which isn’t mentioned here, please e-mail us on firstname.lastname@example.org or text and help us to learn from you!
If you want to set a walking church, do contact one of the walking churches listed above: the story of The Dock is probably the best resource to start off with! Of course, carol-singers have been doing walking church for years. And did you know …
Forest Churches also do walking church, and “Beating the Bounds” is an example of a traditional parish activity that can be similar to walking church. In ancient times, people walked round their parish boundaries to remember where they were and pray for the village. Children would beat the boundary markers with sticks to imprint on their memory where they were, so they didn’t forget when they grew up. Many churches have continued this custom into modern times. Although it is normally an annual or less frequent event, it would be a good event that could be used to launch a more regular walking church. For more information, and resources to help you run your own “Beating the Bounds” event, see here.
Happy journeying on the Way!