Chaplain to hedgerows, to pilgrims and pilgrimage

30th July 2021

In what’s thought to be the first role of its kind in the country, Steven Wort from Milverton has been commissioned as Chaplain to hedgerows, and those who wander them, and to pilgrims and pilgrimages.

The idea for Steven’s new role came about after so many people began walking during lockdown. Steven says, “over this past eighteen months or so, many of us have been out walking because of the many restrictions placed on us. You may well have wandered round the lanes, the parks and fields and thought nothing more of it.

“Over this period of time how many have been to church when able, or have missed it, or maybe do not even go to church very often, if at all. The walking you have been doing, is taking place in God’s open-air church and not the building which we more commonly think of as church.

“It is in fact a new and fresh air approach to church, for those that aren’t too sure about going into the church building for services. Even regular church visitors could find it as a new and more natural way to communicate with God, being in the open air, being and feeling a real part of his natural creation.”

Steven, who is a Lay Worship Leader worked closely with Revd Helene Stainer, and the diocese on the idea for more than a year. It was Helene who suggested the title Hedgerow Chaplain. Steven says there have been similar things undertaken in the past. “Once upon a time, probably the 17th or 18th century, there used to be hedgerow pastors and their function was to go from church to church, they weren’t associated with any particular church. Their services were looked on as another service the church could offer. Where there wasn’t a building they would preach and offer a service outside."

Studying an ordinance survey map, Steven draws up a route. He walks it, writing instructions and directions. He then gets the map, instructions and directions printed and leaves it in churches for people to find and follow when they go walking.  Once a month Steven offers a date when people can join him on the walk. Together they go into ‘God’s open-air church’. He doesn’t conduct a formal service, it’s just a case of ‘walking and talking’. 

“We take in the things around us. We stop by a five-bar gate, have a look at the world around us; the view from the gate, the sheep in the distance, the water perhaps, and maybe put our hands together and say to God, ‘Wow, thank you so much, this is absolutely wonderful’. 

“The pleasure and spirit that you can get from that, coupled with what we’ve been going through over this last year, can actually recharge your body, can recharge your soul, can recharge your spirit and you can start to go down that road of a new spirituality. 

“Most importantly, it gives you the chance to talk about and discuss God’s wonderful creation, start to learn, and understand your spiritual place in life and to reconnect with his natural world. It is a new calling and I have only taken a few Pilgrim walks so far. However, as we return to hopefully a freer, but still cautious world, the opportunity for everybody to come and join me is now there to experience.”

Steven has many plans to add to the Pilgrim walks, and has a ten mile benefice walk scheduled for August. If you’d like more information email Steven Wort

You can hear more from Steven, as he talks about his new role on 10 Radio