The theme of the retreat was about holding the balance between ‘living for others and making space for oneself’. Stefan Reynolds who gave short talks each day very helpfully drew examples firstly from the wise words of the Desert Fathers, then subsequently from the rule of Saint Benedict.
Finally he drew teachings from his own book on the Biblical text ‘The Song of Songs’ and from the writings of Saint Bernard.
It was a classic silent retreat based on a daily intensive one hour session – which comprised 25 minutes sitting with some chanting, 10 minutes of walking meditation, and a further 25 minutes sitting.
Each day also included a session of Lectio Divina and ended with Compline. Sadly without the musical support of one of our members who is seriously ill.
Each day there was also the opportunity to meet one to one with an experienced group leader or spiritual director. There were words of encouragement once a day from one of the retreatants. The retreat ended with the celebration of the Eucharist together on the Sunday led by Rev. Jude Carpenter. The spiritual atmosphere of the retreat was intense. We all seemed to drop effortlessly into a deep and united silence. The layout of the room seemed to produce this.
The feedback from the closing session was enthusiastic and that all despite some shortcomings in the accommodation and catering.
I thought to myself that this reflected “poverty” in the biblical sense in contrast to my usual pampered western lifestyle. I kept telling myself: migrants and refugees would be delighted with this!
I pay tribute to the leader Barbara Jones and a small team of supporters who inspired and organised the retreat so successfully.
Here is an image produced by one of the participants at the final session feedback. She had noted our traditional symbol of the Two Doves on the bookmark and it came alive for her.
I think it demonstrates how deeply affected she was by the retreat and the extent to which she had integrated the message of the retreat and how it expresses the deep spiritual meaning of our community. What a blessing the retreat was for her as well as for all of us!
I came away with the strong intention and aspiration to serve the community in person, on the ground, in groups. Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus.