Pete Duckworth from Coventry Quakers, reflects on outdoor meeting for worship:
Being keen to resume face to face Meeting for Worship, some Coventry Friends began to meet in Naul’s Mill Park a few weeks ago. This has usually been about 6 Friends, more or less the numbers we used to get for Wednesday MFW in the Meeting House back before lockdow,. Naul’s Mill Park was chosen as it’s close to our Meeting House, several Friends can walk there and it’s fairly accessible by public transport (you can stroll there from the city centre). It is also accessible for people with mobility difficulties as there’s parking very close and the entrance to the park is level. We can choose where we sit for sun, shade etc. It has been delightful. It offers a good, quiet setting surrounded by trees, with some nice flower borders and constant birdsong. We have been able to share social time afterwards with our own packed lunch or snacks .
For the last two weeks some Friends have also met there on Sundays. I originally felt uncomfortable about this but have been reassured by Friends that we are actually diversifying the Worship on offer within Coventry Meeting and not fragmenting our community.
Coventry Meeting is keen to restart MFW in the Meeting House and to offer blended Meeting. However we are having issues getting Internet access sorted (long story). Also the current guidance is for face coverings to be worn, so several Friends struggle physically, psychologically and spiritually with the arrangements for Worship in the Meeting house.
Personally, I’ve long enjoyed outdoor MFW. I have been feeling quite fragile lately, I suspect many of us have. However seeing the faces of Coventry Friends beside me in Meeting for Worship feels utterly normal despite the novel setting. The chats after Meeting are something I’ve not always valued but now I discover that they are both a true joy and a more significant part of our spiritual practice than I had understood before lockdown.
There is a lot to be said for outdoor spirituality including the current vogue for “Forest Bathing” as featured recently in the BBC Sunday programme (25 minutes in). Many of us find spiritual connection in nature so it makes sense to worship in a natural surrounding. I think it also reflects the practice of early Friends who were not welcome in churches and had yet to acquire or build their own Meeting Houses. Also their gatherings were sometimes too large for the available buildings – imagine that!
Worship in Naul’s Mill feels spirit led. It is firmly based in the embedded practice of the Coventry Meeting Bank Holiday worship in the city’s Memorial Park that has been going on for years. Are we being moved to reach beyond bricks and mortar towards something eternal?
Naul’s Mill Park has some down points:
- We are on display, though nobody has approached or interrupted us so far. Maybe we should make a notice?
- There is no loo in the park. This has often curtailed the length of our post meeting socialisation
- The weather, although even in a downpour one Wednesday 3 Friends elected to don our waterproofs and do a walking MFW and it was a delight. Plus we discovered that at a meditative pace the walk round the edge of Naul’s Mill Park takes exactly 30 minutes! The key is to dress appropriately.
Everyone is welcome to either meeting, do come and join us if you fancy worshipping outdoors. It’s safe and it will be a joy to see you face to face.
Nails Mill Park, Coundon Rd, Coventry CV1 4AR
Wednesday 12:30 – 1:00 (bring a packed lunch)
Sunday 10:30 – 11:15 (bring refreshments for chats afterwords)