November 2016 – Planning to retreat


Before you start worrying, this isn’t a letter telling you all I am off to live peacefully in a remote location, it is all about what I believe it means to go on a Christian retreat.


For those who are signed up to come to Foxhill next April, it will let you know what you should expect; for those who aren’t, it may help address some of the stereotypes which may have put you off considering going away on retreat.


Q:  So what is a retreat all about? 

A:  Getting closer to God


That is to my mind, the key reason we would want to go on retreat, to allow ourselves the time and space, which is so often missing in our daily lives, to deepen our relationship with God.


Q:  Are there particular ways we need to do that?

A:  Not in my view!


It is vitally important that at all times in life we have our hearts open to meet and walk alongside God, but the world sometimes gets in the way.  How we meet God is not important, it is the meeting which matters.


Everyone meets God in different ways, some though contemplation, perhaps using images or objects, some though silent meditation, some through music and images, some though walking in nature, some though creative activities.  There is no right and wrong way, each person will meet God in their own way; the important thing is the finding what works for you to help you to talk to God and feel God’s presence with you.


If you find that contemplation of a candle just makes you think of whether you have remembered to pay the gas bill, my suggestion would be that that isn’t your optimum way of getting alongside God!  But don’t give up, try another way.


Q:  Do you have to be silent on a retreat?

A:  Not all the time


Silence is a very difficult issue, for some it creates a wonderful space in which to meet God, for others it is oppressive.  Some retreats will be in silence for the whole time, but I don’t feel this is appropriate for a church group retreat, when many will be new to the process, and there will be a wide range of experience.


Q:  Will we need to do lots of study at a retreat?

A:  It depends


Some retreats will involve personal study as part of the activities, but these tend to be something you would sign up to as an individual, rather than a church group retreat. 


So what will the Team retreat be like?


In planning the retreat I have tried to provide the space so that everyone can try to meet God in the way that best suits them.  To this end there will be:


·     Times of input with talks on a series of specific themed biblical passages accompanied by a short reflective period with images and music reflecting the theme of the talks.  These will probably last for around 15-25 minutes, and will send you out with some specific things to think about.


·     Following each of these sessions there will be spaces of around an hour, provided for reflection.  How each person uses that time is up to them.  You can pray and reflect in silence, listen to some music, do some knitting, or go for a walk in the woods.  There is no right or wrong way.  I will be available during these periods to chat through anything if desired, and if you can find some like-minded people, there is nothing wrong with discussing the themes in a small group.


·     There will also be times of corporate worship.  We are not insisting you come to every service, but would encourage you to come to as many as you can, because through corporate prayer and worship we better make that space in our hearts to be open to God.


·     There will also be times of communal fellowship, space to chat over a tea or coffee, over a meal, or in the evenings.


If you are signed up already for Foxhill, I hope this hasn’t put you off!  But if initially you thought “that’s not for me”, but are now interested in knowing more, have a chat with me, there are some rooms left, and so we may still be able fit you in.


Best wishes,     Malcolm Wearing