Motorbikes and Monks
The week began with continuing efforts to unpack boxes, though the move has gone very well.
So, by Saturday 13th I was all set for Jennie’s Commissioning Service as a Church Related Community Worker at Castle Hill URC in Northampton. When I arrived the Church was surrounded by Christian Bikers , who were present to support Jennie as she has been very much involved in the Christian Motorbike Association. The service was full of joy. I found it good to catch up with people I hadn’t seen for a while – among them ~David Featonby who preached, Daphne Beale who presented Jennie, Don Taylor who gave the narrative of the call. Pete, Jennie’s husband read the Statement of the Nature, Faith and order of the URC, and Stanley Crane led the intercessions. People who had been involved in Jennie’s training were also there to support her, including the Principal John, Lesley who used to oversee CRCW training, and Marie one of the serving CRCWs. There were also representatives from the other Northampton Churches and Loughborough URC where Jennie has just completed a two-year placement.
I spent the next couple of days preparing for a personal retreat at Turvey Abbey, near Yardley Hastings. I had set aside a time for personal reflection on laying down my role as Synod Moderator and thinking through a pattern of spirituality in retirement. I chose some books to read and planned to write a reflective journal during my stay from Tuesday to Sunday. Turvey Abbey had two communities, both Benedictine. The monks only number three and they are the Monastery of Christ our Saviour. The nuns, about nine of them, are the Priory of Our Lady of Peace. They worship together in the Benedictine pattern of prayer five times a day, interspersed with silence and work. The day usually begins at 6.10 with the Office of Readings, then after breakfast and Bible reflection (Lectio Divinia) and Lauds (morning praise) at 8.30am. Often Midday prayer is linked with the Eucharist (Mass, Communion) at 12.15. Then there is Vespers at 5.30, followed by supper and Compline at 7.30pm, after which we entered the long silence through to the morning.
One of the unexpected features of my time there was the company of others on personal retreat with whom I shared meals and some conversations throughout the day. I arranged to have a conversation early in my stay and towards the end with Sister Esther, one of the nuns available to retreatants. This provided opportunity to ensure I was clear about my purpose in going on retreat and to reflect later on what I had accomplished.
I did read the whole of Richard J Forster’s classic on spirituality, Celebration of Disciple’ which explores the inner, outward and corporate spiritual disciplines. It was helpful for me to think about what pattern I might adopt in retirement. I also read a book on contemporary theology, which also proved helpful to think through some of my own faith and where I am now in my faith journey. In the afternoons, I took a break from readings and writing and did some gardening – very much in the style of the Benedictine rule. The routines of the days were very easy even though it sounds a lot to pray five times a day for over half an hour each time!
There will be more about the retreat next week.