Talking Point – July 2024

Away from it all

I HAD A MIND to write on the theme of retreats, as I have just been on one. What is the purpose of going on a retreat; and may this be a religious one or a secular, every day one?
I had found a book in my Franciscan Area’s library which answered a few of the questions. One definition was getting away from it all with a purpose. That purpose might be catching up on some sleep, a change being as good as a rest, a chance to find some peace of mind or getting a break after the pressure of meeting a deadline in a stressful job.
Others may like to go on a retreat which includes painting, crafting, writing poetry or folk singing. Maybe they will be extremely active, such as one a friend liked, which involved walking some distance to appreciate the great outdoors and the glory of creation nce to appreciate the great outdoors and the glory of creation.
On arrival, after being shown our rooms for the weekend, participants on my last retreat met up in a hospitality area to find cups of tea and home-made biscuits. A warm welcome, during which we told each other about our hopes for the experience of a closeness to God and of time to meditate. Each time I tried to do this, I found myself falling asleep.
Had I failed to enter the spirit of the retreat? I don’t think so, as I woke refreshed to appreciate the peace of just being, sitting in an orchard listening to birdsong, or enveloped in a shrubbery, behind a high hedge, with the sounds of traffic on a nearby road muffled by the leaves. I walked among the spent primroses on the lawn cut into the pattern of the labyrinth and appreciated the singing of the Sisters in the Convent Chapel.
The week after I went home, by chance, there was an account in our newspaper of a woman who took a year off work for a Sabbatical. She chose when to wake up and when to go to bed, she listened to music, went out for walks or stayed at home. She turned off the TV and the Internet, just read for entertainment, but did not feel alone.
Most of us could not manage that, but even a quiet hour to ourselves, to take a breath and calm down can work wonders.
The Reverend Margaret Dimmick is an Anglican priest and a member of the ministry team at Caversham Park United Reform Church

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