Onespirit’s Birch Pathway


Introducing Annie: Her Journey & Expertise

Annie’s own spiritual formation is lifelong and ‘out of the box’; she models an ‘interfaith’, or ‘inter-spiritual’ love of the way we touch and inspire one another, and how we can learn to appreciate one another and find a connection. Annie has a pluralist and non-proselytising approach to teaching, with an interest in how each participant brings a unique perspective which interweaves with the whole. Annie found a natural ‘connection’ from her youngest days in the wild and ancient places, with a particular affinity with trees, through spending much time outdoors, while brought up in a household where the Christian faith had a big influence for many generations.

Annie’s exploration of world faiths began through school religious education lessons, realising that religions are related to one another, and are in communication with each other. The resonances and differences were a fascination! This and her own ‘alternative’ explorations and experiences in extra-sensory perceptions inspired her to immerse herself in beliefs of the world at the university level, which then deepened further through forming relationships with diverse people from different walks of life. Through this, Annie experienced a ‘wake up’ call to respecting the extraordinary lives people live and the ways a sense of meaning and love can sustain us through the most challenging situations. She has since found particular refuge in the Dharma and is a student of the Dao through her tai chi practice, a ‘grassroots mystic’ at heart.

Annie’s passion for experiential spirituality and soulful humanity has led her into diverse faith paths, spiritual traditions and cultural communities over the last three decades. Through study and relationships with friends, neighbours and colleagues, Annie has been touched by the privilege and challenge of being welcomed into others’ worlds. Annie shares this ongoing and self-reflective exploration in the Ministry training programme. Alongside her tutor role at OneSpirit, Annie is currently engaged in a ‘grassroots’ voluntary ministry in a local urban project, where she is the ‘garden chaplain’ of a therapeutic gardening project for vulnerable members of the local community.

Annie is drawn to this ministry through her lifelong affinity with the natural world, nourished through her druidry practice. She finds particular meaning in empowering others to share in cherishing and regenerating green spaces, including improving the quality of life for all in urban environments.

A favourite topic of conversation is the wonders and mysteries of her garden pond! Annie is an experienced spiritual accompanier/coach and qualified chaplain, with NHS training in mental health spiritual care in an interfaith context. She draws on a degree and MA from Cambridge University in Theology and Religious Studies and her professional formation as a teacher, undergirding her commitment to diversity and social justice issues of inner cities. Annie joined OneSpirit as a tutor in 2016 and is ordained. She enjoys working with classes in day workshops, residential and online contexts and is interested in how we form deep, mutually enriching connections through these different approaches. With a side-line in mural painting and a prolific writer, Annie has published numerous books and articles offering reflections and ceremony resources, particularly about key interests in the Feminine Divine, deep ecology and the mystical heart of sacred texts.

Interfaith Inspiration on Deepening Empathy & Appreciation

Robert Kennedy, a Jesuit, speaks about the calling into empathic relationships with different faith paths: ‘…the council urged us not merely to tolerate other religions but to admire them and to promote the good that they have, because there is good in every religion and it was our job to find what was good, all that was good, and promote it, promote it, even as different to our own understanding of the truth. And finally, more than that, to practise the truth of the other, to walk in their shoes because only then can we really understand them or appreciate them.’

Annie says: I was really struck by these words, while watching a documentary some years ago, and kept replaying the film so I could write them down on a scrap of paper. I find the intention to engage out of empathy and a wish to appreciate the other, ‘to walk in their shoes’, such an attractively relational and heart-warming approach.

Insights from Annie

[00:03] Hello! I’m Annie, and I’m the Core Tutor for the Birch Pathway. I just wanted to say hello and welcome you to all this introductory material. Have a look and see what you think.

[00:21] I’m delighted to be offering this training. It means such a lot to me. I think we have a really rich and creative curriculum that’s evolved over the years. But, to be honest, it really only comes alive once we all get together, and when we start allowing the connections to form within our classroom and see who’s bringing what into the pot? Because every class, every person that comes into every class is unique, and while we share humanity we have this connection that goes much deeper. And we might see that in all sorts of different ways, the connectedness of all life. Perhaps everyone who comes into the room is important. So if you come in, you’re important, and your presence and what you bring from your life experience make such a difference to the whole. While we do have a structure and some parameters to help us all keep on track, it’s not so much a course where we are trying to tell you what to think or what to believe, or what to do, as much as seeking to work with you and asking you how we can support you with your own self-development. It’s very self-reflective, you know. So we’re here, your tutors particularly, to keep inviting you into this question, this inquiry into what’s going on for me here? What’s my sense of meaning and purpose in life? What do I want to do? Or maybe simply, who am I? What do I want to be? How would I like to be in this world, in this community where I live? Perhaps you have a spiritual path, or perhaps you have ideas of ministry already, and perhaps you don’t. That’s okay. But for now, simply your inquiry and your interest and your commitment to self-development, you’re just so very welcome. So come as you are, and please do feel free. Come along for a chat. Come and meet me. Come and bring your questions to one of our introductory events. We’ve got lots of different dates for you to choose from, and I will be delighted to meet with you and not just me. Bring along other people who’ve been doing the training in the last few years who might be able to answer some of your questions and help you make your own mind up, and form your own impressions.

[03:27] So meanwhile, thank you for your interest, and I really hope to see you soon!

Annie’s Personal Picks

Favourite words and their meaning/approach to teaching…
I love exploring where different words come from and what they mean. My mother was a linguist and used to read dictionaries in all sorts of different languages, for fun! Words so often come from or relate to some other, older language and culture, and this fascinates me – how we are all interconnected and have been travelling, communicating and influencing one another for centuries. Here are some words which are important to me, in the way I live and work with classes. If you are interested in looking them up, here is a link to an online etymology dictionary.
  • Conversation: this comes from a Latin word about the way we live together – sharing a way of life in a particular place, used especially for people living a dedicated religious life. So deep conversation is so much more than just talking to one another, it’s about being together and includes our relationship not just with each other but also our environment and how we behave in this relationship. We explore this together in our class and our environments.
  • Communication: this comes from Latin too and relates to the word ‘community’ and the idea of sharing things in common, with the general public – distributing equally to the whole, so everybody is involved not excluded. I relate this, especially to our sense of ministry and intention to be accessible to and of service to the public, and this is why we practise nonviolent communication. x
  • Belief and Love: this comes from an Old English word, ge-leafa, which in turn comes from an old Germanic word meaning what we hold dear, what we trust and have faith in – what is beloved to us. Theres a link between ge-leafa and the word ‘love’. So what we believe, is not just a set of ideas, it is what is dear to our hearts, our personal ‘truth’. Emma Restall Orr, (Living Druidry author), once pointed this out to me – thanks, Emma! 
  • Listen: I think this is interesting because the most ancient root of listening is hearing. The meaning in the past emphasised active engagement: to listen, we hear and we respond – as the saying goes, ‘to hear is obey’. Obedience, by the way, although we may associate this now with dog training, or other submissive connotations, is also connected with listening, especially to a Higher Power, particularly the promptings of the Divine or our deeper intuitions.
  • Truth, trees, wisdom and druidry: I love the fact that tree and Truth both have the same root, meaning firmness, reliability, and sturdiness. This is clear in both Old English and Old Celtic words but going back much further in time, an ancient (proto Indo-European) word ‘deru’, apparently meant wood – especially oak trees – and being firm and steadfast. I also love that the word ‘druid’ comes from this root. The ‘id’ bit of Dru-id’ is from old Celtic and proto Indo European meaning knowing and insight, and gives us the word wisdom. So a ‘Druid’ draws insight or wisdom-truth from the trees. This is what I mean, by saying I practise Druidry. I think this is something many of us around the world and throughout time, have in common!
Favourite way to express creativity...

Painting, textiles crafts, clay… 

Favourite way to spend a day off...

Camping, walking in the countryside, gardening…

Favourite form of self-care or wellness activity...
  • Tai Chi: Tai chi is an internal Chinese martial art practised for self-defence and health. Known for its slow, intentional movements, tai chi has practitioners worldwide and is particularly popular as a form of gentle exercise and moving meditation, with benefits to mental and physical health.
  • Qigong: Pronounced “chi gong,” was developed in China thousands of years ago as part of traditional Chinese medicine. It involves using exercises to optimize energy within the body, mind, and spirit, to improve and maintain health and well-being.
  • Being in nature
Favourite place to visit when you’re feeling down, or needing inspiration...

The woods, the sea, the hills, the garden, a pond…a quiet place

Favourite Movie..

A Korean Zen film, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring (2003); The film is divided into five segments (the five seasons of the title), each segment depicting a different stage in the life of a Buddhist monk (each segment is roughly ten to twenty years apart, and is physically in the middle of its titular season).

Favourite Book...

Women Who Run with the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Favourite Song...

Love is Real, by John Lennon (click here to listen on YouTube)

Favourite words you live by...

Annie means ‘Grace’ – I guess grace – the divine kind – has carried me through a lot…

But these days I’m particularly inspired by some words from Clarissa Pinkola Estés, ‘My friends, do not lose heart, we were made for these times’ – this is a challenge, a mystery and an encouragement to me… read more here: We Were Made for These Times, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (

Favourite quote, motto, or anything similar...

‘No mud, no lotus’ – Thich Nhat Han

“Understanding and compassion are possible only when you come in touch with suffering. Without the mud, there is no lotus flower. Without suffering, there can be no understanding and compassion. You can make good use of suffering to generate these two energies.” 
Favourite childhood book or story...

As a child, my favourite book was probably The Midnight Folk by John Masefield. These days, my favourite children’s fiction is Harry Potter.

Favourite Cuisine...

Vegan, please!

Favourite advice you’ve ever received/read...

Two things spring to mind.

  • First: You do not have to be good …’ which is the opening line of Mary Oliver’s poem ‘Wild Geese’. The whole poem is great advice.
  • And advice from a former house guest, ‘igwe bu ike’ which is Igbo (West African) for ‘when we put our resources together, it generates a more powerful force.’ essentially, we are stronger together. 
Favourite Artist, or Art Style...

Tricky, I love so much art, but favourites include Georgia O’Keefe’s Flowers, Shiskin’s Forests and Klee’s Goldfish!

Annie’s Impact: From the Voices of Others

"She is very inspiring. Her knowledge and experience are a huge gift for us and she is a great role model. She holds a very loving space for us and I've never felt so safe before, in the sense that I know whatever happens in our session with her we won't be judged, shamed or criticised. This feeling is quite new to me and I really want to be able to offer that safe, loving, supportive space to myself and everyone I meet in my work and personal life. What a gift!"

– Hara, Annie’s Current Aspen Pathway Student

"I find Annie's guidance to be exceptional. I really feel valued and likeI am a part of the OneSpirit family. Thank you, Annie."

– Tony, Annie’s Current Aspen Pathway Student

"Annie is steady, calm, open, knowledgable, curious and loving. She is modelling how to really listen and respond to the actual needs of the people she is interacting with. The materials she is sharing are well thought out, balancing inspiration and practicality. She foregrounds safety and welcome in her facilitation of the class in a way that invites bravery, accountability and community. I am grateful to be taught by her and share sacred space with her."

– Ben, Annie’s Current Aspen Pathway Student

"My experience with Annie has been truly inspiring. She is a living embodiment of OneSpirit's Core Beliefs. She demonstrates, with sensitivity, deep non-judgemental listening together with compassionate communication. I have felt very supported by her when needed. I have much gratitude that she is our Core Tutor."

– Gina, Annie’s Current Aspen Pathway Student

"Wise and gentle knowledge of her ship and crew and of the destination. Good humour, good nature, compassion, deep wisdom. We are indeed in good hands on this mystical voyage. Grateful for her guidance."

– Aubrey, Annie’s Current Aspen Pathway Student

"I think she's a beautiful soul and I admire her wisdom and gentle delivery. I feel very safe with her and appreciate her interest in the whole group and her support."

– Caroline, Annie’s Current Aspen Pathway Student

"Delightful. And caring, and deep, and intuitive, and knowledgeable, and understanding, and present."

– Heather, Annie’s Current Aspen Pathway Student

"I think Annie is great and Sarah and Linda complement her wonderfully. I loved my 1:1 with Annie and would have enjoyed more opportunities for that rather than just once a year."

– Claire, Annie’s Current Aspen Pathway Student

Explore Annie’s World

Annie does have an internet and public presence going back before her work with OneSpirit and you might notice especially her publications if you are looking her up!Annie at Ordination

Annie’s writing
  • Annie wrote her first book, ‘Reclaiming the Sealskin’, in 2002, spending a ‘quiet’ year while working through some challenging experiences. She found herself walking every day in the local woods and extending her reflections from here to other aspects of nature, finding much peace this way. She posted the draft manuscript to the publisher without telling anybody and was amazed at the welcome. This was a period in which Annie was exploring the relationship between Earth Spiritualities and Christianity, particularly ‘Celtic’ Christian traditions.
  • This led to other books, many of which Annie was asked to write by the publishers, drawing on her knowledge and experience in reflecting on Biblical tradition, the natural world and liturgical or ceremonial creativity, mainly for a largely ‘alternative’ Christian audience.
  • Annie has ten books in print altogether, and lots of shorter articles and ceremonies.
  • Annie has not written anything for a while now. These days, if she were going to write more, would probably focus on her long-term love of oracle systems, on nature-based spiritualities such as Druidry and ways in which the Divine Feminine has kept alive in the faith and spiritual paths of the world and how all these might live on at the heart of humanity.
  • Her most recent book, ‘The Book of Uncommon Prayer’, touches on some of these areas, as a resource for creative ceremony work.
Annie’s Chaplaincy work
  • In spiritual and pastoral care, Annie has an active Interfaith Ministry in her local community. She lives with her husband, Rev Ray, who is a priest for a very diverse urban community church, St Chad & St Mark’s.
  • In particular, Annie works voluntarily as a trained chaplain and Interfaith Mental Health spiritual care practitioner, in running an urban therapeutic garden project. She also supports the church community in their practice of faith and spirituality.
  • Annie says, ‘Living here at the heart of the community is deeply humbling and challenging, and I am daily struck by the compassion and courage of people around me, often living in such challenging circumstances, but continuing to draw together and look for ways to support one another and find meaning and purpose in life. There is a lot of love, generosity and mutual respect here, and such powerful experiences of faith and humanity – everyone is welcome in this place, and we have open doors to the whole neighbourhood, ‘all faiths and none’ – it’s like the whole world is here, this is our community. We provide a free meal for about 70 people every Sunday, but that’s just the beginning, there is so much going on here, all week, not to mention the wildlife that’s thriving in our garden habitat! But at the heart of it, there’s a hugely diverse, praying, vibrant spiritual community with inclusive, equitable values and a lot of love. It’s an awesome place to be an Interfaith Minister!’
You can visit the website of St. Chad & St. Mark’s Church here, or their Facebook page here, if you wish! 
(Annie says, ‘I try to keep out of the pictures, but I do preach sermons so you might find some videos of me!’)

In the gallery above, you’ll see a photo of Annie in the Communal Garden, face painting with the kids; Annie gardening in the orchard; Rev Annie offering some ministerial words; and finally, Annie celebrating at a OneSpirit Ordination Ceremony! 


If you’re intrigued by Annie’s story and wish to learn more about our training or the Birch Offering, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! We’re always delighted to respond to any inquiries you may have. You can discover more about the offering here, or get in touch with us here.