A QUARTER of all retreat houses fear closure in the next few
years. Up to a half believe that they will not be financially
viable in a decade's time.
The first survey of about 80 Christian retreat houses found that
they are struggling to survive in the face of high maintenance and
energy costs, and lower demand from lay people for retreats.
A poll by the Association for Promoting Retreats (APR) found
that proportionally more clerics than lay people take retreats, and
that lay people often think that retreats are not appropriate for
them, or they are not able to take time out for a residential
Two diocesan retreat houses - Offa House in Coventry and
Glenfall in Gloucester - closed this year, owing to financial
pressures, and many other retreat houses say that they fear the
future. Retreat houses are trying to adapt by offering more quiet
days for those who can't commit to longer stays.
The survey of wardens of retreat houses was released at the
APR's annual meeting last weekend. Delegates backed the findings
and said that the financial challenges facing them were
The chairman of the APR, the Revd Timothy Blewett, said: "This
survey takes the temperature of a vital aspect of the Church's
ministry to the nation. Our retreat houses are working extremely
hard to devise programmes that reflect the spiritual needs of the
Church and beyond, and to promote those events widely.
"While it is the nature of most retreat-house wardens that they
undertake these labours quietly, these survey results are a wake-up
call for the Church. If we take the contribution of retreat houses
seriously, then we need to get behind them, through prayer,
financial contributions, and attending their events."
The APR promised to work this year to promote the value of
retreats amonglay people.
Mr Blewett said that there was a "great need in people" to go on
retreats."In parish churches that recognise this and encourage
people to deepen their spirituality, there is a rise in the number
of people attending. Where prayer life is active and retreats are
happening, there is a growth in the church. Retreats are the
Church's best kept secret - we need to shout about them."
The APR has launched a bursary fund of £10,000 to enable people
to try going on retreat by subsidising the cost of a place. The
scheme allows retreat houses to apply for up to half of the costs
of a retreat for an individual, and individuals can benefit from up
to one grant each year.
New programme. Launde Abbey has just released
its new programme for retreats and quiet days, which includes
walking, gardening, and creative holidays, as well as more