Time to plan an autumn retreat?,
“Spiritual direction is, in reality, nothing more than a way of leading us to see and obey the real Director — the Holy Spirit hidden in the depths of our soul,” said Thomas Merton, Trappist monk. Take time to find your spiritual direction this autumn.
Anyone who has been on a retreat before will know the tranquillity and peace it brings. Imagine being able to plan this feeling in your diary! Well, you can. You may still be planning your summer holiday, but have you thought about taking an autumn retreat yet? If not, now is the time. Whether you can spare a day or a week for prayer and meditation, centres across the country want to pull you away from the stress of life and help you along with your spiritual journey.
For some, a retreat is not something they have ever considered. This is something the Retreat Association is trying to tackle. Earlier this month, patron of the group, Fr Christopher Jamison, led a group of inner city teenagers for a day with Breathe Youth Retreats. The theme was ‘happiness’, helping the young people to think about what makes them happy and exploring ways to find time for quiet reflection in their daily lives.
Executive Director of the Retreat Association, Alison MacTier said: “Young people today face many pressures. This was a wonderful opportunity to offer a safe space where they could discover the value of reflection and contemplative prayer. We hope this will be the start of many more joint initiatives with Breathe Youth Retreats supporting young people in their spiritual lives.”
It’s time to plan yours. Here are a few of our favourites.
Launde Abbey, Leicestershire
Retreats at Launde Abbey come in many forms. From retreats to individuals and groups, those looking for silence and others who are seeking inspiration or creativity. The programme of retreats is extensive and promises to offer something for everyone. There is also an opportunity to experience a solitary retreat in their self-catering Oxford and Cambridge Hermitage, which is available for individuals looking to spend time in a more solitary situation. Every retreat however, offers the chance to step back from the pressures of daily life, to enter a deeper peace with the opportunity to pray and experience God. Located in Devon, Lee Abbey is a Christian Community of around 90 people from all over the world: 19 different nationalities. The Community also represents many diverse cultures and age groups. Set within a 280-acre estate in Exmoor National Park, the woodlands, moorlands, streams, farmland and coastline offer the opportunity to connect with God’s creation. The Abbey is holding a Renew, Repair, Refresh retreat at the beginning of November, which could be the perfect time to prepare yourself for the busy Christmas period ahead. “These weekends are designed for individual Christians, small groups and churches to strengthen their relationship with each other, to deepen their relationship with God, and to learn how to be salt and light more effectively in their local communities and places of work,” the Abbey say. For more information visit www.leeabbey.org.uk.
Pictured left: This spiritual retreat and conference centre offers facilities for both large and small groups or individuals on their own. Plenty of events take place at Foxhill including concerts, gigs, talks, church services and seminars. One easy way to find a feel for the place is to attend one of the regular celebrations of Holy Communion in the Chapel or to go to the Carol Concert, held in December each year. Set in 70 acres of Cheshire woodland, the retreat centre contains an arboretum containing several species of rare plants and trees. The woods contain woodpeckers, jays, buzzards and other birds of prey. There are also birches, redwoods elms, eucalyptus trees and a Gingko Bilboa from Japan – often called the living fossil.
The Diocesan House of Retreat, Pleshey, Chelmsford
This retreat centre offers the following advice for those considering one. “Just as a good night’s sleep will not change things, but will help you face a new day with renewed strength, courage and determination, so a retreat will not change your life or solve all your problems,” it argues. “But it could be just what you need to find that strength, that new direction, or that renewed sense of purpose.”
Wydale Hall, York
Wydale Hall serves as a retreat centre for clergy and lay people. Built in the 18th Century, Wydale Hall is a magnificent country house set amongst 14 acres of gardens and woodlands. It features 28 en-suite bedrooms with tea- and coffee-making facilities. It also has a capacity of 50 beds for groups who are willing to share and a maximum of 29 beds for groups where all have single accommodation. Other facilities include a lounge overlooking gardens, wifi access, woodlands, a labyrinth, sports pitch and tennis court. As with most Anglican retreat centres, there is, of course, a good bar.
Set deep in Captain Hook Country, Whitby’s Sneaton Castle offers beauty and heritage. Beaches, railways and towns surround the centre. Closer to home, there are excellent facilities for craft, science, art and music, as well as large meeting rooms and cosy bars. If that isn’t enough to tempt you, the Castle offers deals throughout the year. Check out the website for this year’s picks in their en-suite accommodation.