Basically, ‘Retreat’, means ‘to withdraw, to drawback.’ Throughout the ages, the Christian tradition has understood Retreat to be an important part of our spiritual journey and growth. That is, time consciously set aside for God, a change of focus, a deliberate act of stepping outside of normal routine by withdrawing, from the noise and pressures; the immediate and insistent claims of our social, domestic and workaday responsibilities in order to be in a quiet place where all our senses are open and ready to listen to God. Space where we can just BE.
The focus of a retreat is all about Prayer
Not in terms of petition or intercession, but prayer understood as developing a deep awareness of God in all of life. Soaking in His presence and enjoying him. The goal of our retreat is to be as fully present as we can be to God, ourselves, moment quality time to recollect, remember, re-examine – that which is important and central, finding healing, finding wholeness (shalom). In the presence of God, there is joy evermore.
Psalm 16:11 New Living Translation
You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever
It is a recognition of the need to come away for a time to think, pray and reflect on ‘who I am, what I am, where I am’ ‘where I am going’ in relation to God, self, others, world. We go on retreat to seek God which is why it’s important to provide a context and framework for retreat – solitude, stillness, time for prayer and reflection, time for God, time to stop, and time to talk and share, time to relax and eat, things that are not always possible in the demands of normal everyday life.
A Retreat is a Pilgrimage
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are all part of an ongoing faith journey from ‘captivity to freedom’, which takes place in the ‘landscape of the heart’. A retreat is a pilgrimage because it is ‘the symbolic acting out of an inner journey’. We begin to take stock of our lives and look for that which really counts and listen for the voice of God within us.
In 2014 I packed up my backpack, with my possessions, including my microfiber towel. I put on my walking shoes on and traveled on a pilgrimage in northern Spain which is called the way of Saint James, the brother of Jesus fame. It is also called, Camino De Santiago.
It is the oldest pilgrimage walk in the world and I was privileged that the Lord enabled me to be able to do at least 70 kilometers of it. Another blog post in future will speak of my adventure in detail. However, leading retreats in a small country chapel called Tabernacle, in the depth of beautiful South Wales is reminiscent of my journey in Northern Spain. Why? Because the journey I took in Northern Spain was more than a physical walk. It was walking in the way with the Lord Jesus Christ every day, speaking with him and He with me. It was hard, very hard physically and mentally as I was 59 and far from fit. But the very special thing was that I had the space to be in the wilderness in the company of the Creator of the universe, the Most High God YAWAH, and with other pilgrims that I met from time to time along the way-doesn’t get better than that.
Every day I worshipped in churches along the Way whose language I barely understood, but I felt Gods presence keenly. And when I’m in the little country Chapel called Tabernacle, in the depth of South Wales, which I am the Minister of, in the midst of leading others in retreat, I am in the wilderness in the company of the Creator of the universe, the Most High God YAWAH – and it certainly doesn’t get better than that. Come aside and rest awhile, come along to Retreat.
Paula Rose Parish