“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go” (Gen 28:15). The promise to you as a child of God is that wherever you go, God will be with you.
Over the last 6 months we have been considering ‘church growth’ together, and we will have our first meeting of the ‘core growth group’ on the 23rd October. Growth is both spiritual: that our own faith grows… and numerical: that more people develop faith and want to come to church. Growth in faith is important to me too… my faith is not fixed and finished: I have so much to still learn about God. So, in late September, as part of my personal responsibility for my own Christian growth, I took a Spiritual Retreat.
I spent a week in an 8’x14’ hut in the Scottish Highlands without running water, electricity or even a toilet – but with a gas cannister and my sleeping bag. I swam in lochs, I cycled and I walked in the mountains and spent the week devoted to being with God in the beauty of His good creation. I started each day with prayer at sunrise and finished each day with evening prayer by candlelight. During the day I gave thanks to God constantly for the awesomeness of the mountains, the vastness of the skies, the intricacy of alpine flowers and the cheekiness of red squirrels. During this time I felt a special closeness to God in the wilderness… In the words of the Psalmist:
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast. (Ps 139)
As I return to parish ministry I feel a mixture of refreshment from dedicating time to be with God, I feel a slight sadness on leaving the wilderness behind, but I also feel an optimism that God has reassured me of the His presence in our communities.
When was the last time you took a break from the busyness of life to spend time alone with God, or on a guided spiritual retreat at Mirfield or Parcevall Hall? Have you ever been to the Friary at Alnmouth and spent time following the rhythm of the monks? Do you love Greenbelt or New Wine festivals? Have you been on a pilgrimage, and would you go again? If you get the chance to book something for winter 2022, or summer 2023, might I encourage you to take time now to plan a retreat – whether alone or guided – you may find, that like me, your faith is encouraged, and you gain a renewed sense of God’s action in your life.
With love in Christ, Graeme