Spring 2018 has seen a number of firsts for RHC.Read More
Same route. Two consecutive days. Two groups. Two different weathers. Christleton to Chester along the canal, through the park and the city centre to the cathedral. Reflective walking...
On the feast of Candlemas and the feast of St Werburgh - 2nd and 3rd of February - we set forth on our first events for 2018, and our first ever Retreat House walks - guided with depth and a lightness of touch by Catherine Green. Celebrating a walking towards the light, as winter looks towards spring, and with our own hopes and prayers, we walked our part of the Two Saints Way, a pilgrim route linking Lichfield and Chester. There were times for both silence and conversation, with stopping places to hear a poem or two along the way reminding us of the joy of noticing, of being part of creation, of journey. Prayer and the lighting of candles ended our pilgrimage - and then it was time for lunch.
It was only short - but sometimes by stepping out we engage with what's there.
‘A way of spiritual conversation in groups, through resources, facilitation and training, with Mark Davis, Founder of Shoreline Conversations’
Continuing our habit of asking someone who has come along to our Soulful Saturday (a different person every time!) to write a website piece about it, we're glad to have received this piece on our November day.
How delightful these Soulful Saturdays are. The more so this one, conversing with someone who facilitates conversations!
The setting in the cathedral Cloister Room helps but also the obvious attention paid to informal welcome and careful preparation. Less obvious, those subliminal pointers to the quality of the space into which we are entering. Pointers that whisper how deeply talking together matters, how deeply attending to each other matters, how deeply the divine ear is listening.
The gentle programme opened with reflective worship - ‘Walk carefully as you come here, for God is here before you.’
Mark introduced ‘conversation’ – a word that has its roots in ‘keep company with’. He suggested conversation:
as a graceful way of communicating which allows people to share their truth in love
which can risk tentative self-disclosure
in which we who are prepared to be changed by what we may subsequently discover.
We reflected on ‘good conversation’, how it flourishes and the role of a facilitator. We considered spiritual dimensions of conversation.
We practised conversation using one of the resources Mark has created for groups, ‘Glimpsing God’. Very helpfully he observed that conversation is not about what we get out of the resources but what the resources get out of us.
With Mark as our facilitator we quietly read the beautiful resource materials and silently reflected for 20 minutes. From this we each made our own reflective offering and shared the conversation that emerged for 45 minutes. Finally, we offered back what each wanted to remember, to take away from this conversation.
Our programme closed in worship.
I came home awakened and changed by the sharing of silence and words and stories and people and love.
Retreat House Chester will be offering further conversation opportunities in 2018: more on this when we publish our programme.
Our October Soulful Saturday was something new: a day with a focus on a particular area of work. Exploring ways of tuning in to deeper listening, there was a special focus on when we engage with others one-to-one - perhaps especially in a pastoral or therapeutic setting. 'Very informative and useful', 'encouraged', 'refreshed', 'affirmed', 'very welcome day... thank you': these are just some of the words used by those who came, to describe the day entitled 'I stop... to hear the second music', led by local writer, counsellor and workshop leader Julia McGuinness.
It was the kind of day that stays with you. Rich in content and presentation, and always gentle, the day was a guide to deeper listening - to ourselves, to another, to God. We were treated to variety: poetry, free writing, speaking and listening exercises, plenary conversation, consideration of helpful listening skills, exploration of different contexts for listening one-to-one, centring prayer, and prompts on how to follow up this day for ourselves. The notion of the 'second music' (from Annie Lighthart's poem) - that beneath what is happening we might tune in to what is going on - ran through the day. It's maybe possible to describe the day itself as a beautifully composed piece, which - like music - can linger and enrich our living, perhaps bringing about change. Those who were there considered that there might be change for them: 'a deeper acceptance of self...a better understanding of others', 'job change / career change', 'insight into avenues I can explore to develop skills', 'use of some ideas in my role'.
It was a generous day as Julia brought to it her experience: her wisdom as an experienced counsellor, her creativity as a writer, and her skill as a workshop leader. She found a way of engaging us whatever our own experience: whether we work in listening one-to-one or whether we were there simply because life involves listening. Thankful for it all, we hope she'll come again.
Believing that people need good places to find and offer accompaniment, Retreat House Chester is keen to offer ways of one-to-one listening in 2018. If you would like to be added to our mailing list for news on this, please get in touch.
Our postal address (and registered address) has changed to Retreat House Chester, 9 Abbey Square, Chester CH1 2HU. This is where our office is.
This is because the Cathedral used to look after our post and their office has now moved. This is good news - because it brings opening the retreat house a step nearer as the Cathedral works on the buildings of Abbey Square.
So remember: 9 Abbey Square!
St Beuno’s is a large residential retreat house near St Asaph, North Wales, well-known for its silence and Ignatian spirituality. St Ignatius emphasised a Christian spirituality which finds God in our experience, and our September Soulful Saturday showed us what this means. One of the participants gives a personal outline of the day here...
Although across the border in Wales, St Beuno’s is just a forty-minute drive from Chester. Given that St Beuno’s draws people from across the world to its retreats, we were delighted to welcome members of their Outreach Team to run a day for us here in Chester. Ged and Clare led us through aspects of Ignatian Spirituality in a very helpful and gentle way. Together we explored different methods of personal prayer: lectio divina (slow engagement with the words of Scripture), imaginative contemplation of Scripture and the examen (a reflection on our experiences).
Our first spiritual exercise was lectio divina based on Psalm 102. We were guided to prepare ourselves for entering into this prayer. The psalm was read aloud three times and we read it slowly to ourselves whilst being open to God leading us through prayer and prompting us with particular sentences or phrases. Each person will be drawn to the words that mean something special and personal to them. Having exited the prayer slowly, we reviewed our experience in reflection and shared the parts that had come to us.
The second spiritual exercise was imaginative contemplation of Scripture. The story of Jesus meeting the woman at the well was slowly read to us a couple of times, with gentle prompts to help us imagine the scene and perhaps enter it ourselves. Then some stayed in the room in silent reflection, while others ventured to some other space - including the sculpture of Jesus and the woman in the cloister garden. It was a special experience, engaging imaginatively and personally with the Gospel story.
After lunch we were guided through the spiritual exercise of the examen: to review the day with the Lord. This centuries-old daily review of our experience is gently structured to help us notice the things for which we are glad and the things which might need help or attention. We recognized how helpful – and important - this could be.
To have such helpful presentation and then to experience what we had learned was such a rewarding time, particularly to share in a group situation. My own impression is that we had some amazingly powerful silent times as we were engrossed in these spiritual exercises.
At the close, we were reminded of the value of imaginative encounters with God, of the mystery of God and the dignity and mystery of all people, and to seek to experience the presence of God everywhere.
So many thanks to Ged and Clare for such a special day.
We've just posted details of our Chester Retreat (in July) on our Programme pages. Why not take a look?
April is a good month for Retreat House Chester. In April 2016 we held our first Launch event; and now, a year on, we are able to celebrate our First Birthday. Although the project had two years of research and planning behind it, and was registered as a charity in August 2015, the sunny April evening when we first welcomed almost a 100 people is when things really got going.
Now, in April 2017, with a programme of events underway, it’s been really good to welcome both those who are discovering RHC for the first time and those who are returning. Our hope is that the variety of events and timings means that over time folk can find something that appeals and that they can get to.
Weekday evenings see Contemplative Prayer (a monthly Monday) as we join in Chester Cathedral’s time of simple input and shared stillness in the beautiful and ancient setting of St Anselm’s Chapel, and a Thursday Hub (also monthly) of conversation on themes for reflective living. With a simple presentation on the theme, and then time for coffee and conversation, so far our Hub themes have been ‘Retreat’ and ‘Discovering Silence’; in April we will be exploring sustainable living with the theme of ‘Permaculture’. We are glad to get out into the city and hold these at the Quaker Meeting Rooms just off Frodsham Street.
During the day on weekdays there’s monthly Open House, when you can call in to our rooms in 9 Abbey Square to find out more about Retreat House Chester – say hello, have a coffee, find resources and maybe spend some quiet time. Our mostly monthly Friday Short Retreats (but a Thursday in July!) based in the Cathedral are proving to be valuable times of shifting perspective a little as we take a few hours out of our normal routines to find some quiet and some stillness alongside others and alone, with simple resources to help with prayer and reflection.
And at the weekend, Soulful Saturdays provide varied workshops and reflective days drawing on Christian spirituality, led for us by a range of visiting retreat-givers and facilitators, in the Cloister Room of the Cathedral, a smaller and more retreat-like setting than our big Launch events of 2016. One of the best things about these events is that they bring together people from a diverse range of places and communities. Some have come alone, and some with a friend or partner. Their positive feedback is a real encouragement, and we hope that folk take away something meaningful for their own living. We try to post a short piece about each Saturday event in the News on our website – so that those who weren’t there can still benefit a little from the day.
Take a look at our Programme pages on our website to find out more about what’s happening as we work our way through each month with weekday and weekend events, daytime and evening.
RHC is all about making retreat accessible in ways that fit with how we live. We want to be able to do this through a non-residential city-based retreat house – with so much more happening there than we can currently offer. So alongside our programme we are busy fundraising, and are very grateful for the wonderful support of donors. We are a good part of the way along this path (more news soon…) but as we celebrate our First Birthday the hope of retreat in the city is becoming real. Why not try one of our events to celebrate?
Welcome to 2017!
Our Winter Newsletter has been sent out to those who have signed up to our mailing list. If you would like to receive news and updates through our mailing list, please email us with this request; we will only send it to you with this permission.
And please remember our 15 Appeal. Our 2017 programme is the main part of our work, and is running in various locations as we continue in our aim of opening the retreat house. So alongside our programme, our fundraising is hugely important, and whatever you can give to the Appeal will be most welcome. Thank you.
Wishing you a peaceful Christmas and New Year.
Our tree in the Cathedral's Christmas Tree Festival features the beautiful mosaic stars made in our mosaic workshop in November. We have tried to make the tree as eco-friendly, hand-made and fair-trade as we can - and have taken a 'marmalade'-inspired theme to celebrate the story of the old retreat house and the marmalade that was made and sold to raise funds. Maybe you might be able to call in and enjoy the tree-lined Cloisters over Christmas?
We will be taking a break from Tuesday 20 December to Thursday 5 January - and look forward to embarking on an exciting year in 2017. So we'll sign off for 2016 here, and with wishes to you for the peace and joy of Christmas...
'Peace to this house. To those who enter, to those who dwell here, to those who depart - Peace.'
We are very pleased that our 2017 programme is now available on our website. Just go to our programme pages.
It provides ways to be still and silent, times of prayer, ways to help reflective living at home and at work, conversation, community, and ways to explore the riches of Christian spirituality. We're very much looking forward to welcoming a range of speakers and retreat-givers, and - most importantly - welcoming those who come along.
Retreat House Chester's launch in 2016 has shown the real enthusiasm there is for 'retreat in the city', and our need to find breathing spaces within everyday living and for everyday living. In 2017, we hope you'll find something you'd like to try.