Going on Retreat… Part 1

Start of my retreat….
© 2013

So, last week I went on retreat, for the first time. I can’t believe I’ve got to nearly 40 and never been on retreat before. In fact I’m not sure I’ve ever been away by myself before… (other than travelling at 19 which was more about partying and booze than anything else, but that’s a whole ‘nother lifetime).
The last 2 years I have been to the Hillsong Colour conference in London with some friends and at the end of last years, when they were booking up for the following year I felt God say to me that next year I would be doing something different. So I spent some time praying and subsequently ignoring the beautiful invites and gifts that Hillsong sent out to tempt me into going…. and I felt that I should be going on retreat, which kind of made sense after the crazy journey of ‘discernment’ and going into ministry.

So by the time I got around to booking it and finding a date, the time I booked just happened to be at around the same time I would have gone to Colour. Funny that…

Crowhurst Christian Healing Centre

I went to a place called Crowhurst Christian Healing Centre, near Bexhill, basically because I’d read a book about it ages ago and it wasn’t far from where I live (I didn’t want to waste time travelling although it was so tempting to go back to Cwmbran!). Crowhurst is an old Rectory and the centre was set up in the 1920s I believe by the then Rector. Their focus is very much in prayer for healing, and they hold a healing service twice a week, but they also host retreats, weekend events and so on.

It’s funny how you just know God is in a place isn’t it? I think the moment I walked into the building I felt tears welling up! and there were a couple of places in the building, particularly the library, where I could just really sense God’s presence so strongly. The thing I loved most though was the utterly amazing sense of peace and calm. And of course there is something to be said for being in the middle of nowhere, with only a handful of people, no TV and just a bible for company… but aside from that it just had amazing peace. 

The place itself is a lovely old rectory, with modern additions including a rather ‘ugly on the outside’ chapel, but wonderful inside. The gardens are pretty with a lovely pond, and fields

Fave spot to pray…

to walk in, including a prayer walk. My favourite spot was a rickety old bench by the pond. Inside there’s a large lounge area, dining room, art room, and a well stocked library. I had planned to basically shut myself in my room with my bible but actually there were so many other better places to be that I spread my time around the place.

There were services each morning and evening and I didn’t go to all of them, but those I did I really valued. Compline is not really my thing, just not a massive liturgy fan, but when there I just found it good to be with others, saying the same thing, to the same God, at the same time, even though we were all there for different reasons. Even the slightly awkward singing of songs unaccompanied and rarely in tune didn’t bother me!

The Healing Service itself was quite an experience, I shuffled in late hoping I could sit quietly at the back but it was so packed I had to squeeze in between others. Which bearing in mind there were only about 8 of us staying, was a surprise, but some of the stewards said that it had been getting busier and busier and that soon they would outgrow the chapel if it carried on, which clearly shows that God is doing something there. The Pastor led with such enthusiasm and love for Jesus that everyone was swept into it, it was really powerful. I felt completely overwhelmed by Gods love, in fact I think I spent most of the service sobbing to myself, just got a hold of it when we went into communion and that was it, off again…. I had an amazing sense of Gods love for me, and also real compassion for the other people there, some of whom were clearly very ill or had health problems. As communion approached it was almost too much to consider how much He loves me and what he did for me on the cross…

One thing I found was that I was so tired the whole time I was there. At first I thought maybe I was coming down with something, but I realised or maybe God revealed, it’s just that I needed to rest. To rest my body, my mind and my soul. And rest I did. In all ways. I mean I hardly spoke to anyone, I spent a lot of time just resting in God, not even speaking or praying to him, just ‘being’, I wasn’t thinking of theological ways to discuss what I was reading or planning next weeks activities, I could just sit and be with my Heavenly Father. And I did sleep, there is something rather decadent about having a kip in the afternoon, but I made the most of the fact that I could and did! And it was just so lovely.

There were various things I felt God talking to me about which I will write about in another post, otherwise this will go on and on… but if you were thinking of going on retreat, I would really encourage you to do it! and I would thoroughly recommend Crowhurst too.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    May 9, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    I'm glad your first experience of a retreat was so fulfilling, Red. I always used to find that whenever I went on retreat I slept very heavily, so you're not alone in that In fact I was told by a member of staff once that clergy (and by definition ordinands too) always slept a great deal at first, when they finally had a chance to slow down and switch off. 🙂

    PS A former vicar and very old friend of mine was the Warden at Crowhurst in the late 1990s and loved his time there.

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