To make a retreat is to step aside from the normal busyness of life and to attend to the things of God for a while – in order to return to normal life again refreshed and with a better sense of direction of travel.
At St Paul’s we offer two ‘styles’ of retreat as part of our annual programme.
The first is more traditional in style. Once or twice a year Fr Andrew Norwood leads a group to WEST MALLING ABBEY, KENT. This is an opportunity to experience a silent weekend retreat, not alone, but in the company of others and with a community of Anglican Benedictine nuns. The Abbey was originally founded in 1090, but the present community has been here since 1916. Each day is structured in the monastic way where the community gathers around the Eucharist, times of community prayer and mealtimes.
We stay in the 15th century guesthouse which has simple single room bedrooms and a sitting room and refectory. Meals are hearty and homemade! The grounds provide an atmosphere of quiet and spaciousness for prayer and reflection. We also use the 14th century Pilgrim Chapel by the gatehouse and explore the local countryside.
Typically we arrive at 5.30pm on Friday night and leave at 2.30pm on Sunday afternoon. Transport from Victoria station by rail to Malling is easy and the Abbey is a five minute walk from the station.
We also make at lest one annual retreat overseas, usually in a city or town where there is some obvious focus for our thinking and praying together. Over the past few years we have visited Moissac in France, Avila in Spain, Siena in Italy, Colmar in Alsace – and in 2015 we will visit Amsterdam at Passiontide and Krakov in the early autumn. The formula is broadly similar: we agree a meeting point in the city for our daily gathering (sometimes a church, sometimes an apartment) and then we arrange our own travel and accommodation.
Once there, we meet for a day of three parts: the mornings begin with prayer and end with a mass – and in between we study, think, pray and learn together; the afternoons are free for you to do what you need to do – for some this means silence, or more thinking, or being a tourist, or resting…; and in the evening, after Evening Prayer we eat dinner together – the only rule being that you have to sit next to the person you know least well! Three nights and four days is the norm.
To find out more about retreats or pilgrimages, speak to one of the clergy, or click here to request information.