Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Comment response

Recently (see Here) I posted about going on retreat I wrote this "I do struggle with them and more often found them a waste of time" a comment left under the post asked this 
I would be interested in
 a) why and b) what kind of retreats you've actually been on.

So let me try to answer these I probably wont answer in full so I guess that is what the comment tab is for

I've been on a few retreats mostly either day retreats/ quiet days  or over a weekend that were part of work/college and were compulsory attendance. The have all been organised ones and led by people who have led many and have a particular way of leading. Quiet days, some with teaching most of them though find me sat at a table or in a group listening to a speaker talk for most of the day and then we have a few moments of reflection. I find myself daydreaming and finding more and more elaborate ways of escaping the day or weekend. 

I've also been on a couple that I have found good, but these where more of team away day and we walked the seven sisters and had a picnic and then stopped off for a pub supper that day we just hung out together work talk was banned another was getting together for a morning and each taking a song that meant something then having lunch together. both of these I really enjoyed they were loosely organised we knew where we had to be and what to bring but apart from that it was just time away from work. 

The worst one was going away for 3 days this was the one that truly put me off and confirmed for me what a waste of time they were for me. we arrived on the friday evening and had our rooms allocated we had a few moments to settle in then it was supper after supper all our gadgets were " confiscated" until the sunday evening before we left. everything watches, travel clocks, MP3 players mobile phones, Games, everything had to be given in and then it was prayers and silence. I'd kept back my game so I had something and to use in the night, but I had to hand it in too when the person I was with got cross I hadn't. To make matters worse I was in a room with a much much older women who wanted the lights out so there I was alone in the dark awake for all most all the night I was just about asleep when she woke and the lights went on. The next day we sat inside and listened to talk after talk on different things and discussed them in our groups all I wanted to do was be out in the wonderful gardens and by the river that as near by. By the end of that second day I had truly had enough and turned off and tuned out for the rest of my time. I did manage to escape that evening and on the sunday morning. I felt like a caged animal just giving up. we also had a time when we had to go and spend with the chaplain for the weekend which you were told when to go. It was like being told you have a tutorial and thats that. 

That has been how many retreat days or weekends have been extremely tight on time and trying to pack as much as possible in in a short time. Organised with no room to be really me, to wander off/ find space and time out to think on or bin things. No time for me to actually engage with being there. 

The cadged feeling trapped inside all day and being talked at isn't away for me to engage with being away or with God and others. 

Being in a lecture style environment I go into that style of thinking and being, taking notes and trying to concentrate takes a lot of energy and focus. Another side of many of the retreats has been being told when I was to go and see the chaplain. I do not find it easy to just go and talk to someone because I've been expected to. There are very few people who have that place of being where instantly there is a connection more often relationship and trust has to be built and earned before real sharing can begin. 

One style I did find was Good was being on Iona though it was work and I was in work mode for much of the time it parish pilgrimage where I was Co leader.It would be somewhere I would return to it was a style of retreat I could take to and did take to.... the format for the day was simple space and thought came together. We slept in dorms with people from around the world we ate together 3 times a day. We had chores todo together and morning and evening prayer. During the day there were activities or focused times you could join if you wanted to. There were no demands apart from you be at meals, but most of all there was space...there was space time to wander the island or go sit in one of the churches go for coffee to the beach. Time to meet with God just be 

I'm not sure I fully answer the questions but its a start I'm sure...


  1. yes sounds like that three day experience (Emmaeus walk?) wasn't good for you - esp that you felt that the things were 'confiscated' rather than you voluntarily gave them up for the weekend. I was a bit unsure abotu the silent retreat - being 'made' to give up talking but I experienced in a good way in that I was relieved from the responsiblity of talking (yes me!) and making sure people felt good etc ... I really enjoyed it. There WAS time to walk outside (alone, or with another in silence) there was prayer time, there was good music to listen to, there were crayons and paper to express yourself on ... and we were told

    'if there is an emergency' DON*T keep silent - come and talk to the leader

    PLUS we had the possibility to sign up for a slot with one of the priests ... it was voluntary ... and you could go, be there, sit in silence, ask for prayer or just talk (like a confessional) the choice was yours. Plus when you signed up you didn't put your name - just an X - so no-one knew whether you went or not.

    I'd recommend it. The best was even the Eucharist was freed from all the trappings of words

    I'm glad I tried. I didn't think I'd like it. I didn't think I'd cope. I did by the grace of God.

    We had lovely single rooms - and in each they'd put a fresh flower and an 'electric' candle. There was a Bible and paper too. Well thought out.

    The second time wasn't quite so good as we were 'taught' liturigal dance .. which irritated me .. but again once I put my pred. aside (and stopped thinking how irritated I was!!) it did work after a fashion. And I enjoyed the Taize chants that went with it.

    Don't give up - that's my point I think.

  2. I hear you
    And it's great that it was a good for you I remember you coming back and sharing about the silent communion.

    It was not a good time for me and did feel that there was little time for God in the midst of all the "lectures"

    I really don't think that these things are for me as i said I'd go back to Iona or maybe something like Taze but I would be very cousious about booking or being told I'm going on one..

    The retreat in the original blog post that started this was very different we were in the middle of nowhere, we were given free time and apart from one guided conversation and time to consider we had space to do and be so that was really good.

  3. a link to that post might be helpful ...

  4. I added a link in brackets not sure why the link back to midlands calling didn't accept when I wrote it. but it's there now :)