connecting with the landscape

A meditation on the geology, flora and fauna of a local landscape.

This meditation was originally written as part of an outdoor communion service held on Otham Green on 21st June. The prayers relate to the specific landscape of the area, which nestles on the edge of the North Downs near Maidstone. Researching a little about the local landscape helped me appreciate the timescale in which our environment has developed. Using the creation story of Genesis, it was possible to follow the evolution of the natural environment, linking Biblical understanding with our experienced reality. My thoughts are that prayers for the Earth work well when outside in the elements, giving an opportunity for participants to sense their place as part of the environment offering an opportunity for grounded wonder.

The natural elements, flora and fauna, described in this meditation could be replaced by those of the natural environment any area.

(After the second hymn)

John 1 v 1-3

‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things came into being, not one thing came into being except through him.

Let us spend a moment considering the natural world around us, dwelling in the knowledge that all that we can see, smell and hear is originally created through the Living Word our Lord Jesus Christ.

Genesis 1 v 1-10

‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, with a divine wind sweeping over the waters.

God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and God divided it from the darkness. God called the light day and the darkness he called ‘night’. Evening came and morning came: the first day.

God said, ‘Let there be a vault through the middle of the waters to divide the waters in two’. And it was so….. God called the vault ‘heaven’. Evening came and morning came: the second day.

God said, ‘Let the waters under heaven come together into a single mass, and let dry land appear. And so, it was. God called the dry land ‘earth’ and the mass of waters ‘seas’, and God saw that it was good.’

We are standing on a bed of Ragstone, formed by sand and clay, left by the tidal currents which flowed in this area around 100 million years ago. Fossils are common within the rock, including ammonites, brachiopods, sea urchins and even the occasional dinosaur!

Following this the sea level rose so that this whole area was covered in sea leaving a thick layer of planktonic algae, minerals and shell debris, creating a 100-foot layer of chalk. This has been eroded over tome leaving us with the landscape that we view today.

Let us spend a moment considering the time it has taken for our landscape to be formed, and God’s creative control over all things.

Genesis 1 v 11-13

‘God said, ‘let the earth produce vegetation seed bearing plants, and fruit trees on earth, bearing fruit with their seed inside, each corresponding to its own species’. And it was so………. Evening came and morning came: the third day.

In the hedgerows and woods around us we find hazel, sloe, hawthorn, sweet chestnut, oak, hornbeam, brambles and wild roses. In the Spring we see primroses, wood anemones, and blue bells. In the summer: bugle, red campion and yellow archangel, all producing food for either people of wild life.

Let us spend consider how soil, climate and God’s hand have worked to produce the wide range of vegetation we can see here today.

Genesis 1 v 14-19 

God said ,‘Let there be lights in the vault of heaven to divide the day from the night, and let them indicate festivals, days and years. Let them be lights in the vault of heaven to shine on earth’. And so it was. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the smaller light to govern the night and stars…….God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came: the third day.

The Church celebrates festivals throughout the year, many of these coincide with the agricultural year and ancient festivals marking the times and seasons. Today we stand at the point where the length of the night is shortest. For the next 6 months the days will gradually be getting shorter. This pattern generated by our relationship with the sun creates the seasons and affects the whole of the natural order.

Let us reflect on the beauty of our changing seasons and on this moment in time at the point of mid-summer.

Genesis 1v20-25

‘God said, ‘Let the waters be alive with a swarm of living creatures, and let birds wing their way above the earth across the vault of heaven’. And so it was……God saw that it was good. God blessed them saying, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the waters of the seas; and let birds multiply on land’. Evening came and morning came: the fifth day.

God said, ‘Let the earth produce every kind of living creature in its own species: cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds’. And it was so. God made wild animals in their species, and cattle in theirs, and every creature that crawls along the earth. God saw that it was good.

There is a wonderful variety of wildlife here in this area.

Woodpecker, jay, crow, robin, thrush, blackbird and blue-tit, and lark over the fields are only a few of the birds whose songs and sounds we can appreciate.

Foxes, badgers, stoats, weasels, hares, and field mice, may well be within a stones throw of where we are, come night time.

Sheep, cattle, horses graze in the fields along with ducks, hens and turkeys.

Toads, frogs, fish and a huge array of water born creatures play their part in the eco-system.

Let us consider for a moment the amazing interconnectedness of all creatures.

Genesis 1v26-31

‘God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild animals and all the creatures that creep along the ground.

God created man in his own image, in the image of himself he created him, male and female he created them.

We draw to mind the farmers in this area who work the land and produce food, wool and other products for the population. We pray that their work may be appreciated and that they are supported to grow food with good and careful husbandry that supports wildlife and the ecosystem so that all may benefit.

We think of the all the people who have made their living from the land in the past and helped to shape the landscape we see today. Respecting those that have gone before us, the communities that have left us the heritage that we view today, we pray for wisdom to carry on caring for, and protecting our countryside environment for future generations.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer (people’s response)

We thank God for our communities of (Otham, Downswood and Langley), and ask for His blessing on all who live in this area.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer (people’s response)

We prayer for wisdom for those on our Parish and County Councils and all the decisions they make affecting this area.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer (People’s response)

We pray for all those in parliament, and particularly for those whose decisions effect directly on our natural environment. Lord help us to treasure and respect all the species of the earth which you have created, and wisely support those who make judgment with integrity.

Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our Lord Jesus Christ. (All together)

Amen