RETREATS and silence are a way of trying to find balance in a
society dominated by a "left-brain" approach, delegates at the
Retreat Association Conference heard.
The keynote speaker, Dr Iain McGilchrist, explored the need to
find a balance between the "left-brain, details-oriented" approach
to life that modern society favours, and the right-brain, holistic
approach. He spoke of the value of having periods of silence in
trying to find this balance.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams and the former
Abbot of Worth Abbey Fr Christopher Jamison OSB reflected on the
talk. Other contributors included the poet Pádraig Ó Tuama, the
sculptor Sophie Hacker, the composer Margaret Rizza, and the
liturgist Emily Walker.
The director of the Retreat Association, Alison MacTier, said:
"Retreats are there to address the balance between being and doing.
It is one of the unique things they can offer: redressing the
balance, and finding values that are not always obvious in our
The conference, which is held every three years, is intended as
a celebration of Christian spirituality.
More than 40 wardens and leaders of retreat houses gathered to
discuss the changing climate for retreats. Although some large
retreat houses have closed in recent years, smaller retreat centres
have opened up, and these were trying to meet people "where they
already are" by offering events such as a quiet day in a pub.
"Retreat houses are going to where people already are, and
meeting them there," Ms MacTier said.