Monday 28 January 2008

Six Go Mad in Hampshire

I'm on the blink a bit (blogwise) at Alton Abbey for four days' annual review/retreat. Once described by Ruth Gledhill as "the best kept secret in the Church of England" the Community of Our Lady and St John is a brilliant place for a thorough annual MOT (UK compulsory auto checkup). I go to Alton every year with the same group of six. We rented a cottage in 1980 and 1981. By 1982 we discovered it was easier to go somewhere others did the shopping. Alton had a gatehouse, which we used to take over. About 10 years ago everything moved into the house. This is our 26th year here, because in 2000 we went to Lindisfarne instead - Alton were doing up the building.

We've developed a regular routine. We begin with the community mass. We have three 4/5 hour major sessions in the week, about the past year personally, the past year in ministry, and how the future looks, respectively. Afternoons are spent out or exploring resources and ideas from the year. The evening is spent in, er, discursive reflection (aka The Sun at Bentowrth)

We've found it pays to give this process quality time, to stick with a group you trust, who have heard it all before, and really know you. It helps massively to set the whole thing in the context of a religious community who understand unpretentious prayer and generous hospitality.

Et voilà! After 28 years, any group of old gits does get a bit like some grisly Alan Alda midlife crisis movie, but we've been through a lot together. This doesn't involve dropping out, like a silent retreat, but internet connections are decidedly ropey/ precarious, so expect extremely intermittent blog supply until Friday. Then Revelations?

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