Hallo again to all.
We're fresh from our first retreat at our diocesan retreat centre. The retreat was not long—just two days. But it was a wonderful opportunity to heed our Lord's invitation to 'come ye apart and rest awhile', and we're reflecting tonight on what made it such a spiritually fruitful weekend.
One positive dimension of the retreat was its size. The retreat was for a small group of people, all elected members of our church's vestry (called in some countries a parish council). We were all able to interact during meals in order to get to know one another better, and to come away with more friends in our parish than we had had before. Much smaller would have been too small, and much larger would have been unmanageable.
The retreat was also good because it balanced conversations and presentations with silence and break time. Unlike some conferences and retreats we have attended, the agenda was not cluttered. The result was that introverts had time to recover in between open sessions, and everyone had opportunities to regroup during the course of the weekend.
Punctuation of each day with the daily offices of Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline from the Book of Common Prayer gave shape to our waking hours. Fellowship by a fireplace closed our daytime deliberations in an atmosphere of cozy relaxation. The offices were unhurried, but also not too long (they were slightly abbreviated).
The clear focus of the retreat was also a boon. It was to train parish leaders in lectio divina—the tradition of reading scripture with hearts open to the Holy Spirit—as a way of preparing them for a new year of vestry service. We can't imagine a better way of preparing elected leaders than encouraging them to listen and reflect in patient hope. All of the activities of the retreat pointed in one way or another toward this goal, and the retreat planners were expert in crafting a weekend in which distraction was as absent as constriction.
Good food rounded out the excellencies of the weekend. The retreat centre staff did their invisible work of food preparation with evident care, and all our fellow retreatants came away happy and healthy thanks to their attention.
So much News of the Church is about when things go wrong: misbehaving clergy, scandalous bishops, corrupt laity, fires, floods, budget problems, decay. We are happy tonight to be able to write about something having gone very well indeed: a simple parish retreat—focused, brief, calm, constructive, balanced, helpful.
We know that most of your life in the Church is just like this. Lightning doesn't often strike the vicar because of a heretical sermon, and a healthy persistence characterises the life of most Anglicans around the world. We're so glad it is so, and happy to share some small bit of good news. Let it be our small response to today's words from Christ in the gospel lesson:
See you next week.
9 February 2014
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