Archives for category: Retreat

Simon & Garfunkel Concert, Central Park

Slow down you move too fast‘ was one of Simon and Garfunkel’s anthems that charmed us all in the late sixties. Wow! If the sixties were fast, then how would we describe today? Everyone working frenetically, more in search of survival than their dream or self realisation. How times have changed. Well up until ‘Lockdown: Covid-19, 2020’.

Now I am, if nothing else, a throwback to the sixties that framed much of the contours of my worldview. Certain foundational understanding was also established. So today I feel I live in a permanent state of retroversion, having the appearance of somethone that existed in the past. I guess that the hippy that took hold of my persona has never left; one reason I feel something of an alien at times within contemporary life.

Does this matter? Well, not to me. I’ve grown quite content, now that I have stepped away from the realised and hidden persuaders that mount a consistent assault upon my self esteem as I entertain a vacuous need to conform to some vague notion of what we are all meant to be/become. I have lanced this illusion, for illusion it was and forever will be.

However, even as I pursue my choice of life as a contemplative, a semi hermit devoted to prayer, the Lockdown has opened my eyes to how much more I need to, or at least might, slow down.

Here in St Cuthbert’s, Jayne and I have a wonderful garden we are slowly developing. In normal times it offers welcome, peace and pleasure to those seeking quiet contemplation – simply put, a time to step back and be still. This is something that Lockdown has imposed upon us all, whether we’re ready or not.

What I’ve appreciated is that the emergence of spring blooms, blossoms and flowers slowly emerge by degrees. Bare branches overnight sprout buds, yet those buds then take time slowly to open. Every part of that opening process is in slow motion. Day by day we walk and observe each tree and plant and marvel at the beauty of this opening process. Like a child, each stage is precious and perfect in itself, yet the adult who emerges is the perfection of all the frozen time frames, mental photos captured in our hearts and heads.

The simple learning is that discovering the beauty in slowing down is itself a product of deliberate action. It takes work and effort. Lockdown is a deliberate policy, enforced upon us. I know for some it’s tough to endure; no garden, crowded living spaces, tense relationships between adults and children. Yet, I’ve also heard wonderful stories of families who’ve completely reconstructed their lives. Praying together, playing together working alongside each other.

Indeed, one family even made a movie of their version of Red Riding Hood which they sent round to their friendship group to cheer us all up. They found the time to create something memorable together, embracing the time and seizing an opportunity from the midst of our present crisis.

Naturaly Lockdown will end. Life will resume. Will we breath a sigh of relief, ‘back to normal’? Yet, a normal that is in reality no more than a persuader, sometimes realised, more often than not hidden, that drives us. We react and respond to external assumptions that are presented as the rational proposal for successful living. Maybe, we might consider the birds as Jesus suggested. In my case I’ll be considering the trees and the plants, although the birds are also busy about feeding their young, so worthy of consideration.

I wonder if this ‘selah’, although imposed due to horrendous circumstances in which so many suffer and lose their lives, is perhaps an international call to pause, draw breath and decide if the objectives and reaities that made up our lives when entering Lockdown are those we choose to carry into the future that awaits us?

You and I alone can decide. I have my re-entry refrain ready; ‘Hello lamppost, what’cha knowing, I’ve come to watch your flowers growin

This May, you can enjoy five days of holiday and spiritual retreat with Dr Micha Jazz from Be Still and Know on Premier Christian Radio.

As well as morning and evening gatherings for reflection and prayer, we shall both be available throughout the day offerng personal spiritual direction and spiritual coaching. We are also happy to host informal conversations on the challenges of prayer during the afternoon. In other words this is a retreat in which everyne can choose the rhythm that best suits their preference.

See details: https://www.springharvestholidays.com/feature-weeks/retreat/

Le Pas Opton offers four-star holiday facilities and quality accommodation in a Christian environment. The Be Still and Know retreat holiday offers the opportunity chance to explore your faith with the support of an experienced Retreat Guide.

Prayer, discussion, meditation plus time to relax in the holiday environment – a perfect combination for spirit, soul and body!

Here in the Oratory our grasp on prayer is improving through practice and reflection and we’re thrilled to see God at work. Prayer is always our response to God as well as our search for enriching God encounter. Join us as together we we seek God’s presence.

https://www.springharvestholidays.com/feature-weeks/retreat/ 

As we enetr this new year we are pleased to announce our new series of Day Retreats.

These day retreats are each bult around the theme of prayer. As a Home of Prayer, the Oratory is invested in the the purpose and practice of effective prayer. Prayer offers each of us the opportunity to particpate with God in realising God’s Kingdom on earth. Yet, many of us carry questions arising from personal disappointment in apparently unanswered prayers to wondering if words uttered into space can indeed influence present events.

Prayer itself is expressed in many different forms. It is not monotone and therefore monotonous. Rather multi coloured and invites us, those who pray, to explore a tapestry of encounter with the Divine Presence. Each time we turn to prayer is an event through which we encounter God. For prayer is not solely about the influence we might have upon a fractured and failing world but equally the degree to which we are influenced by the reality of the God in whose name we pray.

Please seriously consider taking a day out of your schedule to spend in the presence of the source of life, God. Such a day can refresh your spirit, reignite your passion for God and envision you for the next stage of your journey through life. All details can be found here, and Jayne and I look forward to welcoming you to the Oratory, our Home of Prayer offering Hospitality, Healing and Hope.

Summer is for us a time for working on the Oratory garden. It’s been a labour of love to create a tranquil space for Quiet Days and Retreats. Many of you have commented on the peace you encounter whilst with us. This is all by the grace of God. It stirs our hearts in prayer and adoration of God.

Oratory Day Retreats

This past year has seen our monthly retreats offer an opportunity for deepening faith and personal encounter with God. We are thrilled at the way our dream of a space for prayer and encounter has taken shape. We also want to respond to other requests made of the Oratory. This coming year we are publishing a new set of monthly retreats based upon the theme of ‘Reawakening Narnia’. We trust you will make the time to set a day aside for refreshment, renewal and envisioning and full details are available on the website. We shall be adding additional dates in 2020 very soon. And if you have a subject that you would like included then please do let us know.

 

Facilitated Conversations

We have also decided to explore running some facilitated conversations to explore critical themes that impact our faith in the world. The first of these addresses the issue of our mortality. In an age in which death has largely been surrendered to the medical profession, ignored and, more often than not, excluded from the public discourse, Dr Mich Jazz and Stuart Lindsell have created three facilitated days exploring the nature of Christian death in contemporary society.

 

Each day offers those with a genuine interest in considering the reality of death an opportunity to explore, in a non prescriptive way, the theology, practicalities and realities of ageing and dying. All are welcome, especially those with experience within the field of death and dying. Whilst the three days complete a series, each day is complete in and of itself so if you are only free for one day then do come along.

 

We are holding these days near Hampton Court, London at The House of Prayer 35 Seymour Road East Molesey Surrey KT8 0PB.

 

Cost: £50.00 per person inclusive of materials and refreshments. Please bring your own packed lunch.

 

Timings: 9:30-16:00 each day. Please email if you would like a flyer and/or to register for a place on any of the days, or the series.

Finally, I have teamed up with an old friend, Clel Thom, and we have launched an initiative for the over 55’s, called VOICE. Ageing calls Caleb to mind. At 80, he told Joshua: ‘I’m just as strong as I used to be. Give me the mountain you promised me.’ Maybe you are asking God for fresh challenge in later life. This is where Voice comes in. We aim to equip God’s Calebs to live on purpose; leave a legacy and to find God’s plans later in life.

 

Prayer

The role of the Oratory is to operate as a Home of Prayer. We pursue this life and are always ready to field your prayer requests. We also invest in praying for our nation and the world as we pass through times of transition and challenge. We very much look forward to welcoming you to The Oratory over the next few months.

Every Blessing, Micha & Jayne

stcuthbertsoratory@gmail.com

www.stcuthbertsoratory.com 

I hear the question often, ‘why retreat?’ It sounds like a negative concept suggesting defeat and withdrawal. And the spiritual life is never easy, so if I acknowledge retreat it only further undermines my confidence in approaching a dimension of reality that lies beyond reason.

There is a common phrase, ‘Two steps forward, one step back‘. It speaks of the slow place of progress in any sphere of life. However, when it comes to Retreat I reverse it and suggest that in taking time with God it’s always, ‘One step back and two steps forward‘!

A retreat affords us the space to do three critical things that inspire and enable personal development.

First, a retreat affords me that rare luxury of space away from my ‘normal’. Familiar sights, sounds and responsibilities easily focus my attention on what isn’t working. I find it hard t imagine anything beyond what has emerged as the normality of my life experience. If there are elements I don’t like my natural human response is to project blame anywhere but onto myself. Yet I alone have the keys to structuring my life, regardless of the bum hand I feel life has dealt me or the people who ‘just don’t understand me‘ and now conspire to make my life miserable. In the space a retreat offers I have an opportunity to de-clutter my brain and rediscover objectivity. Remember perspective, whilst feeling like reality, is never anything more than ONE perspective, albeit my own strongly held one. I can change my perspective, though it takes a plan and time to do so.

Second, a retreat focuses my attention upon key content. Most of the time my brain is like an eight lane highway along which myriad thoughts trundle, backwards and forwards. Trying to make the time to ignore the traffic noise and narrow my focus onto one thought that might offer a key to unlocking my overarching mood is rare in the pace at which we live life, and our electronic availability. We can be ‘on air’ 24/7 if we want. It’s a discipline to maintain a work period distinct from leisure and family time. It’s a double discipline to resist reaching for phone and tablet first thing in the day to scan messages and social media content. When I dumb down the traffic flow and become attentive to one theme over a day, I am surprised how many fresh insights I gain across a wide range of personal concerns.

Finally, a well led retreat will encourage me to determine what simple, practical and manageable steps I can take to ensure what I have encountered on my retreat does not disappear as my mind resumes its journey on a highway to nowhere. Such practical steps are the stepping stones that establish a pathway leading me toward a fuller engagement with God and a deeper understanding of myself, God, neighbour and personal context.

Retreat for me has become a regular means of ensuring my overall well being. I increasingly know that I can make life work for me and not simply get up to work for life. Hence I am pleased to announce that the Retreat days here in the Oratory have been posted for the next year. There’s a wide range of subject matter and taking time out to benchmark where you are at and to audit your spiritual well being is something that can only add value to the quality and content of your daily life.

I have concluded after numerous conversations that there are the three essentials of prayer.

Too often prayer is a seemingly endless monotone of requests, concerns, hopes and fears directed broadly at some entity we trust is God, or in reality someone or something that might come to our aid. The ‘God’ persona is regarded as some form of life belt, required as we struggle to stay afloat in stormy seas, a means of escape from an inevitable drowning.

This, of course, may well reflect our point of entry into God. For God is often ill considered when the yacht’s intact and the cruise in full swing. Crisis creates quasi believers of us all. And why not? Better to grasp for a life belt in despair, than quietly slip beneath the waters of obliteration.

What is Prayer?

In fact prayer is a practical and precise response in search of a God who I desire to encounter. There are no guarantees! I may simply be ‘whistling Dixie’. For God is sought and found in faith, and faith is literally without substance, built solely upon the insubstantial foundation of inner resolve. In other words it can only ever be established a priori. For faith is to knowledge, what skill is to sport, intuition + practice = Performance.

So there are the three essential of prayer for anyone who desires to explore the unknowable God proclaimed by the Christian church for two millennia, and Judaism for quite some time before that. Today let’s look at the first of these three essentials; Stillness.

Prayer Essential #1: Stillness

Stillness is the absence of motion. Of course this might recall the game you may have played as a child called statues. Yet, it’s not stillness in the sense of being perfectly motionless physically. It is the stillness of mind and heart, the management of the distractions that flood in once we choose to be still.

Of course the mind is never still. It is processing millions of bytes of data that our senses send for interpretation. The brain is the control centre for our life, and must itself learn the art of stillness. The discipline of stillness trains us to manage distraction. For many people the thought of stillness proves highly problematic. Years of activity including work, family, maintenance, hobbies, all take their toll. The brain demands stimulation which each of these activities offered in spades. This is something stillness apparently fails to offer. We are restless within ourselves when forced to do nothing through periods of illness or when retirement creates a breach in our life time routine of work and the longed for rest proves a challenge to occupy effectively and satisfactorily.

Stillness is a process through which we grow to know ourselves. In stillness we grow content within ourselves and with our own company. Stillness reduces our constant need for distractions to sustain us. Into that stillness we can find the space and the time to wait upon God. For God is apparently elusive, and never seeks to compete with our preferred distractions. As in every relationship, for that is what we can enjoy with God, the party to that relationship demands my attention and is wounded at every distraction. Even those distractions I foolishly convince myself are for their primary benefit. Most often they are for my own satisfaction.

The Practice of Stillness

Oratory Garden

This practice requires three steps.

  1. A heart’s desire to move away from dependency upon distraction. What I call our inner spiritual Intuition.
  2. The concentrated discipline of taking time each day for short periods of Stillness. What I call Practice.
  3. Living below the constant rumble of traffic noise as the brain processes all that incoming data, whilst you disengage from interacting with it and find a sacred space into which you invite God. What I call Performance.

There are tools to accompany our search of this stillness such as breathing prayer, a long practiced form of centring self on God. Details of breath prayer are available from the Oratory.

It’s also worth ditching portable electronic devices for each period of stillness. Oh, how mobile devices have increased our fascination with distraction whilst crowding out yet another space for stillness.

Conclusion

What I can say is this first step takes time and demands my full attention. It can prove painful, for stillness is nowhere practiced in a society that is forever speeding up and driving each one of us to feel a loss of self worth if we are not ourselves busy, where busy has become a false synonym for productive.

Essentials #2 & #3 to follow.

cloud_unknowingWe had a wonderful retreat day  in pursuit of the Cloud of unknowing.

A journey of exploring those attachments that might unnecessarily tether us and leave us earthbound even as our Spirit within yearns to discover and explore more of the life of God. Attachments that are both positive, yet run  the danger of obscuring God, and also negative in that they deceive us and delay our movement deeper into God’s heart of grace and full acceptance.

We faced the questions that for so long had remained unexpressed, carried as a burden weighing us down, invisible to all but ourself and God. And then took time in silence to consider such attachments and found creative ways to respond to the degree we felt able to on the day, whilst carrying the insights away to continue our meditation in the days to come.

We each sensed a sobering sense of God’s immanence and, whilst we dared to face ourselves in the questions God presented, we equally experienced an increased sense of God’s acceptance and peace in that God accepted us questions and all.

As ever such a privilege to journey with others as we waited and watched before learning to walk with less of a limp.

Keep in touch, we are a community that offers hope and sustenance to one another in the Way.

Retreat Day with Dr Micha & Jayne Jazz May 25, 2016 @ The Wisdom Centre Romsey, 9:30-16:30 refreshments and lunch provided. All inclusive price £35.

Just a few places remain for this day retreat in Romsey Hampshire. We already have a group of twenty people booked to explore deepening their understanding of contemplative activism Please do let us know if this is a day that you might value.

We shall explore the whole area of attachment and detachment with the help of the text of Cloud of UnknowingScholars date the anonymous authorship of Cloud of Unknowing to 1375, during the height of European monasticism. Written as a primer for the young monastic, the work is instructional, but does not have an austere didactic tone. Rather, the work embraces the reader with a maternal call to grow closer to God through meditation and prayer.

Our day will begin with coffee from 9:30 and we shall make a formal start at 10:00. The day will be a combination of learning together and self discovery through directed, individual activities. The objective as ever is to take a step back from the busyness of life and  deepen your personal understanding and awareness of both God and self. The core theme in our time together will be to examine the relationship between contemplation and activism.
 
You do not need to have read the text of Cloud of Unknowing and I shall have copies in a modern translation available for purchase on the day if you think you might want to explore further in this wonderful contemplative fourteenth century text. Do however bring your own notebook and pen. Slides of the day will be circulated after the retreat as a PDF via email.
To book: Email stcuthbertsoratory@gmail.com.

St Cuthbert’s is first and foremost a prayer house. We pray the rhythm of morning and evening prayer. We meditate with Lectio Divina. We contemplate with breath prayer and centring prayer. Indeed we also train people in the ways of prayer, meditation and contemplation. This latter through day retreats, longer journey’s of personal reflection and teaching points.

We receive many requests for prayer by email, letter and over the phone. Our pledge to hold someone in prayer for five consecutive days after which we pray as and when they come to mind. Today Premier phoned as a reader of Voice of Hope wanted to chat about a situation. I phoned back and spoke with Pauline, whose daughter, Sarah, has an MRI scan on Wednesday this week as the neurologists think she has Multiple Sclerosis. Pauline wanted to chat because of my own journey accompanying Katey through her battle with MS.

What comfort might I bring? It is a frightening consideration, and as with Katey whose mother also had MS, but of the remitting/relapsing type and lived a long life, so Pauline’s mother had also had MS. Whilst I don’t think it is officially listed as genetic, it does appear to run in families.Pray-Together

Listening to Pauline, her fears, her pain, her despair all stirred again within me. I empathised with her situation, more difficult as she suffered from fibromyalgia, constant pain throughout the body as well as severe fatigue. I sought to encourage and support her, whilst affirming as good her very human reactions. God knows us as God made us. We can never disappoint God – he knows us through and through. I also explained the journey ahead remains as yet unknown, so it is best not to imagine the future, especially ahead of any final diagnosis. We are to travel by faith, even as the very reality of our pain and despair ground us and suck all hope from our heart.

This is a journey we must make as community. Sadly too few churches it appears are capable of walking at the pace of their slowest, so keen are they to run ahead toward imagined future possibilities. God invites us to live well with what we have together, not to constantly be scanning the horizon for what lies ahead. Pauline, like so many in her situation, has a shrinking fellowship circle, unable to make church meetings that often and therefore increasingly isolated.

So in a spare moment pause and pray for Pauline and Sarah, together with Sarah’s husband Jeff. Also consider how many of the wounded are in your fellowship circle or have you, as I so often have, left them in your wake as you pursue God in the future at the expense of the Christ in your present?

candles

Royal Foundation St Katherine's. Founded by Qieen Matilda 1147

Royal Foundation St Katherine’s. Founded by Queen Matilda 1147

Yesterday I led through our London Retreat at the beautiful and peaceful Royal Foundation of St Katherine’s (RFSK). A mixed and diverse group saddled up their camels and journeyed with the Magi to Bethlehem in search of a revelation of Christ.

Having taken time to still and centre ourselves through a prayer exercise, our journey was divided into three parts. Initially we wrestled with the Magi as they considered their inner sense of call to pursue a star. Not any star but an unknown star that they interpreted as a portent of God’s presence and invitation. The wrestling was over the issues of attachment that so often thwart our inner desire to pursue Jesus. A price to pay when choosing to step away and letting go in the hope that just maybe their, and our, deepest hopes of a King above all Kings might exist and now be manifest in the earth.

We took time alone to consider what the nature of such attachments might be for the Magi and then risked all by inviting God to reveal to us those things we are attached to that only root us in a space that God is moving on from and inviting us to follow him. To take hold of more of God, we always have to let go of more of ourself, our preferences, all those aspects that give the greatest apparent security to our life.

Saddled and on the move we entered the desert. If the Magi journeyed from Babylon, with the average daily distance a camel map_magimakes of 25 miles, it would have taken them 20 days. However, an apocryphal Syriac text suggests that the Magi might have come from the Land of Shir in what is today N.E. Iran, a far greater distance. Desert (the word literally means abandonment) was a place of terror as well as a place of blessing. It was into the accursed wilderness the Scapegoat was despatched, yet it was within the desert that Israel discovered the provision of God in their wanderings. Desert is a place of discomfort and privation; a place where we are face up to who we really are; a space that is empty and expansive, where we are fully exposed, nowhere to hide, and where we need to find God. In that desert our resolve for God is fully tested. The desert always lies between the intention to discover God and the reality of a fresh revelation. We took a long time as individuals to sit within the desert and explore our greatest fear whilst considering how far we were willing to journey into the desert

Finally we emerged from that desert and with what reservations? This was a singularly challenging hour where we each sought deeper encounter with the Lord. We noted the desert is truly the Way of God.

In conclusion to our day, and recognising we did not journey alone but as a community, we sat together in small groups and explored the worship of the new born Christ by the Magi through Lectio Divina. We were reminded that scripture tells us that the Magi returned by a different path, and we left to explore the new path God had opened for us.

Slides and notes (PDF) are available from this retreat if you email the Oratory. The next retreat is on February 24 in Woking at St. Columba’s House, a short walk from the railway station and parking is available. On that retreat during Lent, we shall walk with Jesus in the wilderness and confront those things that tempt us most exploring God’s way of enabling us to deal with temptation and our darkest fears.

angelico_Magi

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