What makes for a good retreat?

Last week I enjoyed a 5 day retreat (not counting the days spent travelling) in Wales. I stayed at the House of Prayer, St Augustine’s Priory in Old Colwyn. A retreat isn’t quite the same as a holiday, although of course there are similarities. It is time away from the usual routines of work and life. I have had a retreat each year for many years and each one has been a time of re-charging my spiritual batteries, of time with God, and giving space to work through any issues. These days there are not many big issues to deal with, fortunately. But for many years it would be on the annual retreat that God would do some really deep healing within me.

House of Prayer, Old Colwyn

Length: These days, for me, a good retreat is at least 5 days long. It always takes me a couple of days to get into the right frame of mind. The longest I have had is 8 days.

Location: I need to be able to go for a walk. I don’t use my car once on retreat so any walks need to be from the accommodation. The seaside is best, but I have had good retreats where there isn’t the sea, but perhaps interesting gardens or woodland.

Type of retreat: Some retreats are advertised as having a theme. There is usually some input from the leader each day and a time of sharing in the group. One memorable one was a praying through film retreat where we watched a different film each day. Other retreats are advertised as Individually Guided and you are accompanied by someone who you meet with once a day. They are there as someone to talk with about the day you’ve had. They may suggest something that you might benefit from reading, or a way of praying. I have always found them to be very supportive and affirming.

What do I do on a retreat? I like to have a routine for the days. This is easier if the food is provided as the retreat house will have set times for meals. Also if it is a themed retreat then there will be some sort of a programme. I have times of prayer, going for a walk, doing some art, and each day I write in my journal. These days I take my own art materials, but many retreat houses will have an art room with various resources available. I used the art room last week and used some material, yarn and shiny paper in my journal. The result is below. I will write about it on another blog.

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