Atlas Obscura is organizing trips! Join us on an adventure »
Today Only: 50% off Atlas Obscura books and calendars at Barnes & Noble »

Canterbury, New Hampshire

Church of the Woods

Nature and religion are reunited at this unconventional church in the forest. 

After three decades as an environmental activist and religious agnostic, Reverend Steve Blackmer had a series of visions that lead him to divinity school, and then to the wilderness, where he decided to bring back the spirit of nature that’s often lost in religious practice. And thus, the Church of the Woods was born.

The Church of the Woods is a place where the Earth, rather than a building, is the bearer of sacredness, and where people of all different faiths, beliefs, and traditions, can come together and enjoy the natural world around them. Located on 106 beautiful acres of forest in Canterbury, New Hampshire, it bills itself as “a new kind of church,” where the focus is on the holiness of all ground, rather than the holiness of one place.

While the Church of the Woods is technically a church, religious faith is flexible. According to Reverend Blackmer, the church is “both Episcopal and ecumenical, both Christian and multi-faith, and devoted to both God and Earth.” It was founded with the hope that people who didn’t feel comfortable in a traditional place of worship, or were simply seeking to feel more in touch with Mother Nature, would be able to come to the church and feel grounded in a sense of community and spirituality. The regular congregation boasts an atypical amount of advanced degrees, doctors, and ecologists. 

Know Before You Go

Visitors of all ages and faiths are always welcome, and are strongly encouraged to stop by, whether to sit in on a Sunday service, admire the beautiful New Hampshire forest, or just to say hello.

Directions from the website:

From the North, West, and South:
Take exit 18 off I-93 and follow signs to Canterbury Center (about 2.3 miles) and Shaker Village. From the center of town, continue east on Baptist Road toward Shaker Village. After about 2.3 miles, you’ll see a white farmhouse on a little knoll on the right, just after a farm pond – be sure to slow down for the sharp bend! Foster Road is immediately after this on the left.

From the East:
Follow NH-106 to the Beanstalk store & gas station, about 6.5 miles north of the intersection of I-393 and Rt. 106. Turn left onto Shaker Road. After 1.8 miles, turn left on Baptist Road. After about 1.4 miles and just after a steep uphill, Foster Road is on the right.