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Retreat with your feet

by Michael Ford last modified 26 Sep, 2019 02:19 PM

Early this month the Revd Helen Dawes joined a walking retreat led by the Archdeacon of Sarum.

Retreat with your feet

The view from Helvellyn

Tweets here

Helen is Team Rector of Shaftesbury and Dean of Women’s Ministry for the Diocese.

Here are her thoughts on the retreat, led by Archdeacon Alan, that saw those involved walking through the Lake District, taking time out to pray and reflect as they walked.

"Earlier this year I signed up for ‘Retreat with your feet’ - a small group covering up to ten miles a day. I thought I’d give it a try. How hard could it be?

"A couple of days before I left I wondered if I’d made a terrible mistake. Why on earth was I going to be away from my parishes in September of all months, just when every committee wants a meeting? Could I even walk eight or nine miles - let alone get up the next morning and do it again?

"I went anyway, because I know that this is what it often feels like just before a retreat. It’s an indication it’s needed, not a warning not to go.

“Part of a promise that clergy make at the licensing services when we begin ministry in a new place says 'As a leader of God’s people in their ministry... you must be diligent in prayer... Will you do this?'.
You reply: 'With the help of God I will.'.

"It’s a big thing to promise: to minister to a parish, a school, a workplace or any other community is to pray for them – to be willing to carry the people of God on your heart. Sometimes they’re quite heavy.

"Perhaps that’s one reason why clergy are so strongly encouraged to take a time of retreat each year. Those few days give us time to focus on the work of prayer away from the other responsibilities of our role. Just as importantly, a little distance from our usual setting gives a perspective that can leave room for God to direct our prayer and our work.

"And as the train makes its way back to Dorset I look forward to inflicting many walking-inspired sermons on the churches I serve. There was so much to reflect on that it will feed me for months to come.

"The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other and the balance between looking down at the ground and up at the path ahead when the way is steep or uncertain.

"The way the line of hills that dominated the view are set in context as you climb higher and see the line of hills behind them, and then the line of hills behind those, until eventually all is laid out before you and you see how it fits.

"And as we walked there was plenty of time to pray. It turns out that sometimes the people of God get lighter when you carry them on your heart to the top of a mountain."

More information on retreats offered by the Diocese

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