Friday, 12 February 2010

What makes a good retreat?

24 hours of this week has been spent in the company of other clergy-women of the Diocese on a pre-Lent guided retreat. It was very well led, and became a time of calm and quiet and safe, honest, deep exploration, and meaningful encounter, and my experience was of feeling very close to the divine.  Most of the experiences were positive, and I have learned many good things - including an example of how to preach superbly without shouting or emotional manipulation; the power was in the words, and quietness was so powerful.

One of the lovely things that happened was that there wasn't any of that jokey-blokey noise that is such a feature of deanery meetings (and others).  After 20+ years working in male-dominated commerce it doesn't bother me at all, and sometimes I'll join in, but it is in the absence and the silence that I notice what is covered by it.  Except that we didn't need to cover what was not there... (food for thought).

Inevitably though, in any meaningful encounter there were shades of humanity that were less helpful, and I found myself reflecting afterwards on some conversations I had been part of where I wish, with hindsight, I had said less, or tried to divert the topic - at one point I had a sense of the vortex of water gathering before going down the plug-hole and it was coldly uncomfortable.  There was truth being told, but... sometimes it is more comfortable not to speak or hear truth - or at least to phrase it better.

The other outstanding memory from the two days was of the wisdom of my peers. Each time they opened their mouths and spoke I was assailed by the wisdom of different experiences and perspectives, and that was wonderful.  I don't think it is entirely a lack of confidence that leaves me feeling clumsy; it was very noticeable to me that my perspective is often practical and secular - my faith is such an intrinsic part of me that I don't separate out and  speak in terms of faith - my focus on the psycho-social elements of life sounds too 'outside' to me.  Among some profoundly theological arguments being presented to answer a question about resourcing ourselves my contribution was 'make sure I get enough sleep.'  In a room full of beautiful women wearing Manolo Blahnic metaphors, the best I could muster was Clarks Runabouts.

That's OK though.  I have permission to be me - sensible shoes and all.


  1. "my faith is such an intrinsic part of me that I don't separate out and speak in terms of faith"- to me this is most profound and life giving, too often we seperate ourselves out...

    as for sleep, self care is essential and too often neglected. I'll take the clarks runabouts anyday there is something real and grounded about them...

    I suspect Jesus would choose clarks over Manolo Blahnic's any day!

  2. Thank you for your lovely comments Sally.