11 September 2006

Advance from retreat

Last week I took a few days off to go on my annual retreat. I usually go on one of the guided retreats organized by the Third Order, but this year I opted for a slightly longer unguided break at Key House, Falkland. It was an opportunity to slow down, read and pray far from any possibility of interruption by phone or email. As usual I found the experience both relaxing and refreshing.

Key House is located in the centre of Falkland beside Falkland Palace. Apparently the house was originally the palace inn. From the back garden of the house you can get into the palace orchard and thence into Falkland Estate. There are some very attractive woodland walks in the estate and I spent several hours simply exploring.

My reading for this retreat was chosen from two very different traditions: A Little Exercise for Young Theologians by the Lutheran theologian Helmut Thielicke and Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen (Roman Catholic). Very different books written in very different styles for different readerships and yet they share an emphasis on the prayerful reading of scripture. Essentially both authors, from their different traditions, are both saying that we should approach scripture expecting God to speak to us through its pages; that we should read it contemplatively and obediently rather than critically. How different from some of the books I have been working on recently!

Of course, both books had far more to say to me than that. I imagine it will take some time for all the implications of what I have been reading to sink in. Perhaps just one other point is worth mentioning now: Nouwen reminded me that there is a certain lightheartedness to genuine Christian spirituality. The great saints of the Christian tradition never took themselves too seriously. How different from the deadly seriousness that seems to have infected the various factions currently threatening to fragment the Anglican Communion. I know I have been taking news and opinions on the tensions within Anglicanism far too seriously. One of the things I learned on retreat was that I need to sit more lightly to what is going on.

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