These days we have to find imaginative ways to worship, and Rachel Summers’ new book Wild Worship might be just what you or your family need. Today’s extract will help you celebrate International Dawn Chorus Day on Sunday 3rd May. I chose this piece because it’s within reach of anyone with a window to open – some of you may be awake at that time of day anyway. If getting up at dawn is impossible much too like hard work for a Sunday, or downright foolish, you can always simply enjoy birdsong throughout the day. I also chose it because the two suggested Bible passages express something that we all need just now.
The first Sunday in May has been designated as International Dawn Chorus Day. However there aren’t any hard and fast rules about whether you celebrate it on the allotted day or not! Sometimes you may not feel that a 5am start on a Sunday morning before church is a terribly bright idea, so feel free to move it to another day that fits better.
This isn’t a religious festival in any sense of the word or in any tradition. It’s not a traditional festival either- it began in the 1980s when Chris Baines, an environmentalist and broadcaster, invited his friends to celebrate his birthday at 4am, by listening to the dawn chorus together. But although the international ‘day’ hasn’t been around that long, the dawn chorus has been happening since before the evolution of our species! And it’s one of the most magical natural events that you can witness.
Things to make and do:
- Meet up early, to visit a wooded spot where they’ll be a variety of birdsong to enjoy. Check what time dawn is, and plan to arrive there at least half an hour before the sun comes up. You’ll need to dress warmly, as even if it’s set to be a warm day, the chilly hours before dawn necessitate a coat. My kids get really cold on a pre-dawn walk, as I think their body is still in night time mode, so I bring them in their fleecy onesie pyjamas, with another layer on below, a warm coat on top, and a bunch of scarves and blankets to drape over them if they start grizzling!
- Try out some birdsong apps, or one of those books where you can press the buttons to hear different birdsongs. While you listen to the dawn chorus, see if you can work out who it is that is singing.
- As you share out some breakfast and a flask of hot chocolate, try communicating through singing, like the birds!
Bible readings, hymns and songs:
Morning has broken
Rise and shine
All creatures of our God and King
Psalm 59: 16 – ‘But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.’
Lamentations 3: 22-23 – ‘Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.’
Ways to pray:
- Soak up the birdsong, as a prayer without words.
- If the birds were singing in praise of their creator, what would the words be? Can you make up some words of praise to some of their tunes? Try singing them to join in with the rest of creation giving praise.
- Try to make time this evening as the sun sets to notice the evening chorus of the birds. Just as you’ve held the whole day, from sunrise to sunset, in your mind today, by really noticing it, so God holds you and your life, from your birth to your death, and that of all those whom you love.
This post was an extract from Wild Worship: Discovering God Through Creation by Rachel Summers (Kevin Mayhew, 2019), 128 pages, £7.99. Used here by permission of the publisher.