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Support retreats — and retreat houses

by
31 May 2013

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From the Bishop of Bolton
Sir, - In my capacity as president of Archway (The Association of Retreat Houses and Conference Centres), I was delighted to read your recent feature article "Under pressure? Take time out" ( 17 May).

It is my conviction that, given the pressures and pace of life today for so many people, it has never been more important that there continue to be places where individuals and groups can step aside to be refreshed and to refocus. This, I would suggest, applies especially to those called into any kind of leadership responsibilities - ordained and lay - within the Church.

I was, therefore, greatly concerned to learn, earlier this year, that two diocesan houses announced their need to close. There is no doubt that in the current economic climate these are challenging times for retreat houses, but, as your article recognises, there are also some good news stories to be told. As chair of the council of Scargill House, I could happily add to these.

Two things, in particular, seem to me to be crucial. First of all (and both these points were recognised when I met earlier this year with many of the wardens and leaders of our retreat houses), in some in- stances there needs to be a re- imaging of the vision for what a particular retreat house can offer for the needs of life in the 21st century. This renewed vision and strategy will then shape the kind of pro- gramme that is on offer.

Second, I believe that dioceses, not least through their bishops, need to continue to give support to this vital resource, whether the retreat house is a diocesan one or not. This will not necessarily be in financial terms (although it was good to read of one example where dioceses are increasing their financial contributions), but in actively encouraging clergy, lay leaders, and parish groups to take time out, and praying for and being in touch with those charged with the responsibilities of running the retreat houses.

Reading the Gospels, we see that Jesus's own ministry was a mixture of intense enjoyment and intentional reflection. If he needed that rhythm to life and ministry, how much more do we? So my hope and prayer is that there are not more stories of closure, meaning fewer opportunities for the vital time out that we all need for our flourishing.

CHRISTOPHER BOLTON
Bishop's Lodge, Walkden Road
Worsley, Manchester M28

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