Soul Searching and Paradise Cake

by Gerry Lynch last modified 27 Jul, 2018 05:23 PM

East Dorset churchgoers spend a retreat day in silence - for most of the time

Picture a tiny whitewashed church miles from anywhere on a hill drenched in the sunshine of a perfect summer’s day.

Twelve members of St Michael and All Angels’ Church, Colehill, turned from the breath-taking view to enter the deliciously cool church – its interior also white. After coffee we settled down to the business of the day – silence.

All had been practising the discipline of sitting still in silent prayer under the guidance of the Revd Lorraine McGregor and ordinand Sharon Boyle for more than a year. This day at Chalbury was their reward.

Following the prayer, several activities were on offer, all carried out in silence. There were stations where people could shut themselves away in a box pew to read, pray, draw or just sit. At the water feature, temporarily occupying the baptismal font, the gift of water could be contemplated as it bubbled gently through some pebbles. Outside people could sit and enjoy the riches of the countryside or go for a stroll.

At the picnic lunch, eaten in the shade of a large beech tree, the silence was broken for lots of chat and, for sweet, some Paradise Cake – an apt choice.

After lunch participants created their own artwork using flowers, greenery and other decorative materials, on top of Oasis bases shaped as Christian symbols.

One “fish” sported tiny leaves as its scales – each secured with a piece of pine cone. A poppy seed head formed its eye and its gills were made with small strips of a red pepper. Someone else whose first creation starred white and blue flowers scoured the surroundings for wild flowers and used a feather in her second.

Meanwhile Lorraine and Sharon made the church ready for the culmination of the Quiet Day – a Silent Eucharist.

The only words used were during the Lectio Divina: an ancient technique of exploring very short passages of scripture to find out what God is saying to us.

“It was an unbelievably powerful experience”, said Sharen Green, a worshipper at St Michael and All Angels’ who was one of the participants, “Apart from the Lectio, eye contact and symbolic gestures were our only language and that alone melded us into a truly deep communion with each other as we shared the Last Supper.

“Then it was time to come back to our daily lives. We left reluctantly, longing for more Quiet Days – and for lots more silence.”

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