Prayer on the last day of October
God of Octobers,
We thank you for this month
of clear blue skies,
of geese flying in formation,
of snakes sunning themselves
on the path,
of squirrels busy
We thank you for
the rich palette of colour
painted on the forests,
for the sounds of crunchy leaves
beneath our feet,
for abundant apples
loading down branches
and scattered on the ground,
for pumpkin patches,
clusters of grapes,
and the culmination
of the garden harvest.
God, in this holy
season of transformation
may we be released from
the busyness and excesses of life,
so that we might learn to
simply be present
to rest in your presence.
- Wendy Janzen
Each October for several years now, right around the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, I pick the wild grapes that grow along our fence. I turn them into juice that is then used as our communion juice at Burning Bush Forest Church (and will be used at Wilmot Forest Church, too). It is a practice of gratitude, and a gift of grace, to have juice that comes from the "wild." I did not plant these grapes, and they are definitely not a cultivated variety. I rarely prune them, but every October they offer enough small little clusters to put away juice for worship. Below is my ode to wild grapes!
I open the door to the
wide, wild, world;
crisp October air washes my face,
fresh and surprising,
awakening me to this day.
Wild vines sprawl along an
urban fence line; who planted them -
human? bird? - no one knows.
Through summer months
tendrils stretched and grasped
for the sun, reaching further
and further, claiming new
territory each day.
Once vibrant green leaves
alive with purpose now
a yellowing and limp tangle.
I move slowly, methodically,
along the row,
the vines playing a game
of hide and seek with their
tiny deep purple clusters.
ample left behind for
other foragers, my heart
offers thanks for this small harvest,
grateful for this miracle,
this gift of the earth.
My mind jumps ahead
to jars of jewel-hued liquid
that will be poured out in worship,
poured out as an act of love for all.
The wild Christ,
present in the elements,
juice and bread;
in light, earth, water, and wind,
in rituals that transform us
and unite us with all that
was and is and ever shall be.
- Wendy Janzen, 2019
Mennonites are not known to celebrate or recognize feast days for Catholic saints. We turned away from all of that during the Radical Reformation. There are, however, some gems of wisdom in the faith heritage that preceded Anabaptism, and St. Francis is one of those figures who deserves some attention.
This 13th century saint was known for his desire to imitate the life and work of Christ, for his concern for the well-being of the poor, and for his belief that nature was the mirror of God. Over the past four years that I have been drawn into leading an ecologically-oriented outdoor worshipping community called Burning Bush Forest Church, St. Francis has become an inspiring figure of faith for me.
Francis’ reverence for nature and love of animals is a helpful example of how faith informs our relationship to the earth. We are members of a community of creation and have a call to protect and enjoy nature as both stewards of God’s creation, and as creatures ourselves. Fransiscan spirituality helps to provide a beautiful perspective on our place in creation, and paints creation as revelation of God’s outpouring of love not only for us, but for all creatures.
The Feast of St. Francis marks the end of the Season of Creation, a rather new liturgical season from September 1 to October 4. The Season of Creation invites Christians around the world to honour our Creator by loving creation and each other. The Feast of St. Francis is a day that some churches offer a blessing of the animals.
In this day of climate crisis and mass extinctions, it seems important that churches and people of faith address these pressing issues from a moral and faith perspective. The worship gatherings I lead with Burning Bush Forest Church are an invitation for people to deepen their connection with the earth and with our loving Creator who breathed life into all that exists.
I wrote this prayer a year ago to celebrate the Feast Day of St. Francis, and to express my gratitude for all animals.
Creator of all that lives and breathes,
we raise up a prayer of thanksgiving for
the animals in our lives
and in our world.
For the great animals --
elephants, whales, grizzly bears, wolves, wild cats…
For the endangered animals --
bees, caribou, orcas, whip-poor-will…
For pets and companion animals --
dogs, cats, horses, rabbits…
For forgotten and unpopular animals --
rats, reptiles, fish, insects…
WE GIVE OUR DEEP THANKS.
We are grateful for a world of beauty and diversity,
for the role of each animal in its ecosystem.
Stir us to action for creatures who have
no voice or ability to
save their habitat or
affect change in our world.
May we live lightly in this world
so that our more-than-human
neighbours may also live.
With gratitude for the blessings
of this earth, and for all
God’s creatures we pray.
- Wendy Janzen
Prayer for the Autumn Equinox
September 23, 2019
As I met with two different forest church groups on Sunday, September 22, my attention kept returning to the wind. It was stronger than a breeze: it made the treetops sway, and sometimes drowned out my voice as I spoke. It was the last day of summer, the day before the autumn equinox, and the temperature was downright hot with a serving of humidity to go with the sunshine. But the wind was not a summer wind. It was the kind of wind one experiences in autumn. It was the wind of change blowing in a new season, new weather patterns.
We are, right now, in the middle of a week of climate action. A week when climate change is on the forefront of the news and of our minds. There was a Global Climate Strike last Friday, and another coming this Friday. There is the UN Climate Summit happening in New York. And there are countless smaller events happening all over to highlight the issues that we have for far too long pushed to the back burner.
I hope the winds of change are blowing through our towns and cities, and through the halls of power. I pray that these winds of change are bringing with them new patterns of being and a new season of action. The equinox is a liminal space, a threshold between what was and what is yet to come. Liminal spaces are pregnant with possibility. May we have the courage to heed the winds of change. To let go of our unhealthy past, so that we are unburdened to embrace a new future that is not only sustainable for all, but regenerative for so much of what is broken.
Here is my prayer for today:
God of the seasons,
We come to you on this liminal day:
The day that marks the balance
between light and dark,
And the turning from
From summer’s fullness to autumn’s surrender.
We stand at this threshold,
Full to overflowing with the goodness of summer,
Ready, yet not ready to let go of what was,
And to embrace what lies ahead.
As hard as it can be, teach us to surrender.
In this age of climate crisis and mass extinction
Help us to let go of our dependence on fossil fuels.
Help us to let go of our rampant consumerism.
Help us to let go of our disposable lifestyle.
Help us to let go of our illusions of control.
May we surrender to your love for all the earth.
May we trust in enough rather than
Grasping for more.
In our letting go, may we know the freedom
Of abundant life.
- Wendy Janzen
At our June forest church gathering Wendy framed the worship time by noting there were two related ideas that coalesced on this day. The first idea she noted was the fact we are now fully into the season of spring with its corresponding concepts of new birth, beginnings, and growth. The related idea was this gathering corresponded with Fathers’ Day, which brings to mind family. The connections she made between these concepts led her to invite us to enter a half-hour period of contemplation with a spirit of childlikeness.
With those instructions in mind, I began my walk by intentionally slowing my already leisurely pace to be able to observe the small details that often go unnoticed. Then, as I had witnessed other children do, I rolled a log over to search for newts or observe what other creepy-crawlers may live beneath it. I also tried to channel the excitement and joy of, what I recalled of, childhood.
As I walked with the posture of childhood innocence, inquisitiveness, and uninhibitedness, the revelation that came to me, had nothing to do with engagement, exploration, or excitement. Rather, the gift that came to me was of a child’s ability to navigate the world with an unrushed, agenda-less stance with no need to accomplish any set of prescribed goals. In a period of my life, in which there has been a seemingly never-ending supply of prescribed goals, often with deadlines attached, and continual responsibilities, it was a blessing to be able to simply be present in the moment, to accept it for what it was, and revel in the simple pleasure of it.
My three-fold hope for this summer is first of all, that there will many opportunities to slow down, so that I can observe the unnoticed small details of God’s wonderful creation. Secondly, that I will be able to act more childlike in terms of my sense of adventure and joyfulness. And lastly, that I can learn to be present in the moment without the need to accomplish anything at all.
- Chip Bender
A prayer for the summer solstice ~
Great Spirit of the sun,
On this dawning of a new day
we turn our faces toward your radiance,
looking for your grace to shine upon us.
Creator of Light,
may your fire burn within us,
extending warmth to all
with whom we connect this day.
On this longest day of the year
we celebrate life, abundance,
fertility, growth, fruitfulness, ripening,
colour, strength, vitality, and richness.
We also celebrate this day with the
indigenous peoples who have called
this place home long before settlers arrived.
We pray that we might be good neighbours,
good listeners, and good allies as we
pray together for reconciliation,
for justice, and for the earth
we all call home.
Let us rejoice in this longest day of light!
- Wendy Janzen
From June 4-7 I (Wendy) attended the first ever Wild Church Network retreat in Wisconsin. It was a wonderful gathering of leaders who are offering wild church or forest church in their watersheds. We worshiped and theologized and shared ideas and dreamed about this network and what the future may hold for groups who are engaging people in "rewilded" outdoor worship experiences in their local eco-regions. We also prayed together. Here is a morning prayer I offered before breakfast:
Great, green God of growth,
generous giver of life and all good things -
We give you our thanks for the
gifts of the four elements
which come together
in this food, in our bodies,
and in all that has life.
The fertile earth;
the fire of the sun;
the air, breath of life;
the water, that flows in us and around us.
Bless the food we share,
Bless the hands that brought it to us,
bless our bodies,
and bless those we we are blessed
to share this meal with.
A prayer for Pentecost
Wild, Wondrous, Wind of the Spirit
On this day of celebration
enliven us with with the wind of life
that blows within and arounds us,
animating all that has life.
Fill us with joy and laughter.
Free us to dance like the wildflowers
swaying in the breeze,
and the treetops that bend and bow.
Help our spirits soar like hawks
on thermal winds.
Fan the flames of passion within us,
Ignite our imagination for the church,
for the world, for the entire cosmos.
Make us truly awake,
and abundantly grateful
for the gifts of the Spirit
that both unsettle and inspire.
- Wendy Janzen
A poem for Easter Sunday
Up from the ash,
where once fire raged
leaving scorched black earth,
rise magenta-topped stems,
lithe and delicate,
bowing in the wind
then standing tall again, laughing
in the face of death.
you pave the way,
flourishing on disturbed earth,
bringing life again where once
A miracle of grace
riding on silky-haired seeds
carried by the wind
to landscapes in need of
you germinate seeds of
new life in the burned and
baren places in our world,
and in the brokenness of our lives,
growing beauty, hope, and love
on delicate stems rising
up from the ash.
Wendy Janzen, 2019
A prayer for Good Friday
Life-Giver of all that is and ever has been,
who meets us in our grief:
We arrive here at the end of the week,
weary, and with fires and holy places
on our minds and hearts:
the Notre Dame Cathedral,
Black churches in Louisiana,
Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque,
and forest cathedrals.
So much destruction, despair,
loss, death, and ashes.
On this Good Friday we reflect
on death and despair,
grief and loss,
sorrow laid bare like a
landscape scorched of its trees
or a community of its spiritual centre.
We feel the emptiness
in our bones, our hearts
reach across time and space
to those most closely
touched by the flames.
Spirit of Life, we know
that you grieve too. Hear
our cries, as we cry
for the brokenness in
our world and our own ability
to inflict wounds on others
and on the earth.
May our Wounded Healer
offer comfort and company as
we wait in stillness and silence
for hope to be born again
from the ashes.
Wendy Janzen, 2019
Wendy Janzen, Chip Bender, and occasional guests will share reflections, poetry, prayers, and resources broadly related to the themes of rewilding our souls.