Pastor’s Blog September 2016

I spent past of last week on Holy Island, otherwise known as Lindisfarne just off the coast of Northumberland (pictures here). Holy Island has played a prominent part in the history of Christianity in England. It was from the Celtic monastery under the leadership of Cuthbert and Aidan that the gospel was brought to England. It was here that the famous Lindisfarne gospels were prepared and for over a thousand years it has been a place of prayer and pilgrimage.

I have been visiting Holy Island regularly for more than ten years. I stay in a small room attached to the URC church on the Island and take time to be away from the demands of ministry seeking to be open to God, praying, reading and reflecting.

If spiritual disciplines are the spiritual equivalent of exercise then a retreat is a sort of intensive training camp. To the regular disciplines of prayer and scripture are added the disciplines of silence and solitude. Most of the day I seek to be on my own and for much of that time I am living in silence seeking thereby to be attentive to God in a more concentrated way than I would normally be able to be.

Were you to ask me what is a retreat for, I may struggle to give you an answer. We tend to measure things by usefulness or by what we get out of it or by what we achieved. A retreat with outcomes is a contradiction the aim is to give focused time to being with God and then leave the rest to him. Over the years God has spoken to me in different ways sometimes quite profoundly but at other times there is just a sense of peaceful wellbeing.

We often read in the gospels that Jesus took himself off to a solitary place to pray and be with his Father. He sets the pattern that we are encouraged to follow and although you may not be able to give a few days to this, I am grateful for the opportunity, we all should try to create some space in our lives to be with God. We have been created for relationship with him and without that relationship we will always be unfulfilled.

Holy Island is a special place for many people seeking God but we don’t have to go to Holy places to be with God, we can create them by seeking God for ourselves in a regular way and regular place. It may be a room, a chair, a walk whatever or wherever it is we all need such a place. It is the privilege of our faith that God calls us into relationship with him so let’s seek to enjoy that privilege.