Moira Roberts, Southwark Pastoral Auxiliary (SPA) at All Saints West Dulwich and others reflect on the SPA Retreat at Wychcroft lead by Prison Chaplains, Revd Tim Clapton and Wendy Stephens, Diocesan SPA.
“Stillness and calm, loved and protected. These are a few of the feelings I am coming away with from our SPA weekend retreat. “
Along with the daily offices and Sunday Eucharist led by Revd Hilary Fife, Chaplain to SPAs, some of the other activities included an introduction to Circle Work, Journaling, early morning Tai Chi on the lawn, a Rule of Life and a Circle Dance in order to explore and delve into what we mean by ‘Heart & Body’
Our scriptures speak of ‘the heart’, but what is the heart? Our faith is unique in that we believe God became flesh. But what does that mean for our bodies? Over the weekend we explored the wonderful flow between body and heart and how both are active in our faith and ministry.
Stillness and calm, loved and protected. These are a few of the feelings I am coming away with from our SPA weekend retreat. We have encountered the new practices of Circle Work which Tim and Wendy use in a prison setting, and journaling. Both of which have taught me to be silent and listen with my heart.
We have had fun with learning a circle dance, a meditative movement that again brings inner peace and joy. We have been reminded of our values, what makes us tick and what we feel passionate about in our ministry through writing our own Rule of Life, and always remembering to focus on our mind, body and heart.
We were asked on the last day to collect something or say a little bit about ‘what you will take away with you’. I chose a tiny bird feather. Birds had resonated with me from the start, from the sound of the owl hooting in the stillness of night to the birds’ dawn chorus. In our night prayer we read Psalm 91, which has a great personal meaning to me and my family: 91:4 ‘He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you will find refuge’.
I found myself writing my own Ode to the ‘Little Feather’:
So tiny, so soft,
to who do you belong.
So delicate, so strong,
what is your heavenly song.
Made to protect, made for flight,
how pure you are to me.
Made with love, made by God,
your spirit has set me free.
Keep me safe, keep me near,
be with me night and day.
Be my body, be my mind,
and forever in my heart do stay. Amen
Moira Roberts, 10 September 2023
Other SPAs commented on the time of silence from the end of Compline until after breakfast the next day. SPAs are generally people who enjoy a good conversation and for some it was the first time they encountered ‘silence’ on a Retreat.
‘I never thought I could enjoy silence and silence with others. Sharing silence with breakfast and on a walk brought peace into my heart’.
‘A lovely weekend. I have found new ways of enjoying silence and being fully present with God. Thank you.’
‘A fantastic, fellowship-filled weekend. Body and heart in harmony as we enjoyed the joy of silence and God’s presence.’
‘Doing Tai Chi on the dewy lawn in the shade was a new experience!’
‘Thank you for a lovely weekend of fellowship and reflection. I felt God’s presence within us and as a team we worked really well together. Thank you Tim, Wendy and Hilary.’