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Travel and retreats: Sanctuary in the city

25 January 2019

Not all retreat centres are based in remote, rural settings. Alison MacTier takes her pick of urban retreats

The garden of the Royal Foundation of St Katharine, east London

The garden of the Royal Foundation of St Katharine, east London

The Kairos Centre

Where: Mount Angelus Road, London SW15 4JA.

The Kairos Retreat Centre is run by the Congregation of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God. It is an urban oasis located within three acres of landscaped gardens overlooking Richmond Park. All denominations are welcome at the centre, either for private or directed retreats. Day visitors are also welcome. For a full programme of retreats and events see the website; but Christian meditation as an 11th Step Practice takes place every Wednesday from 7 to 8.15 p.m.

Facilities: 27 bedrooms (18 en-suite). The Centre also offers several meeting-rooms suitable for groups of any size up to 100 people. A large chapel on the ground floor has capacity for 120 people; a small oratory and a quiet room are open and available to all.

Costs: £70 for a 24-hour stay, private quiet days by donation.

Contact: 020 8788 4188; email bookings.kairos@psmgs.org.uk; or visit www.thekairoscentre.co.uk.

The Royal Foundation of St Katharine

Where: 2 Butcher Row, London E14 8DS.

St Katharine’s provides an oasis of peace in London’s docklands area, and has a history of hospitality. Regular quiet days take place throughout the year. Open reflective days are on the second Monday of every month, when individuals are welcome to visit for their own quiet day and the opportunity for spiritual direction (advance booking advisable). Led residential retreats and quiet days (including those for beginners) can be found on the website.

Facilities: 45 residential rooms (all en-suite). The chapel is open for use at all times: services are held daily. St Katharine’s Precinct and the Yurt Café is a newly opened project that seeks to build connections with communities through conversation, reflection, and community projects.

Costs: Open reflective days £20 (includes lunch and refreshments); optional B&B in conjunction with this event £59; individual retreat packages of 24 hours’ full-board £141; subsidised rate for clergy. See website for charges to other events.

Contact: 0300 111 1147; email info@rfsk.org.uk; or visit www.rfsk.org.uk/retreats.

The Kairos Centre, Roehampton, west London

The Well, Centre for Spirituality

Where: Elsie Briggs House, 38 Church Road, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol BS9 3EQ.

The Centre, based in a 15th-century cottage bequeathed to the diocese of Bristol, welcomes everyone to experience contemplative spirituality. There are opportunities to attend one of its regular events, and it is possible for individual retreatants to stay overnight. Every Tuesday, from 3 to 5 p.m., there is Open House, where tea and chat is followed by meditation. The Julian Group meets on the first and third Tuesday of the month, 2 to 3 p.m.; and the Centering Prayer Group meets from 7.15 to 8.45 p.m. every Wednesday (beginners are particularly encouraged to come on the first Wednesday of the month). WCCM Christian Meditation meets every Thursday, 8 to 9 p.m.; and a Taizé Group meets 7.45 to 9 p.m. on the first Friday of the month.

Facilities: Two small single bedrooms, two meeting rooms, each for individuals and groups of up to 20 people. There is also a self-catering kitchen.

Costs: Suggested donation for day visitors £20, an overnight stay £25.

Contact: 0117 950 7242; email warden@thewellcentreforspirituality.org.uk; or visit www.thewellcentreforspirituality.org.uk.

Retreat House Chester

Where: 9 Abbey Square, Chester CH1 2HU.

Retreat House Chester is a charity offering the benefits of retreat experiences in the city centre. It is non-denominational, rooted in Christian spiritual tradition, and offers non-residential ways of retreating in daily life. The programme runs in locations in the city, including Chester Cathedral, and the charity is developing its own non-residential retreat house, which, it is hoped, will be ready at some point in 2019. See the website for full details.

Facilities: Non-residential.

Costs: Events typically priced between £10 and £20.

Contact: 07514 357427; email admin@retreathousechester.co.uk; or visit www.retreathousechester.co.uk.

The Kairos Centre, Roehampton, west London

Oasis Days, London

Where: St Andrew’s, Holborn, St Andrew Street, London EC4A 3AF.

Oasis Days offer quiet reflection for people who need a day to recharge their spiritual batteries and enjoy the stimulation of an excellent speaker. Oasis Days are held on the second Tuesday of each month, from 10.45 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. Those leading are from across the denominational spectrum.

In 2019, the dates are: 12 February, 12 March, 9 April, 14 May, 11 June, 9 July, 13 August, 10 September, 8 October, 12 November, 10 December. See the website for details of speakers.

Facilities: Non-residential.

Costs: £15 includes lunch, tea and coffee.

Contact: 07429 612642; email martin@stmarys-harefield.org.uk; or visit oasisdays.org.uk/future-events.

St Stephen’s House

Where: 16 Marston Street, Oxford OX4 1JX.

This former mission house of the Cowley Fathers, now a thriving theological college and permanent private hall in the University of Oxford, offers its facilities for parish retreats, sabbaticals, study periods, conferences, and choral/music concerts. Private retreatants in ordained ministry are welcome. The cloistered garden is within a short walk of Oxford city centre.

Facilities: 53 rooms offering single, twin, and double facilities (19 en-suite). Three seminar rooms.

Costs: Average costs for en-suite B&B £55; additional meals £10-16.

Contact: 01865 613504/01865 613500; email assistant.bursar@ssho.ox.ac.uk; or visit www.ssho.ox.ac.uk.

The retreat house in Canon Lane, Chichester

Chichester Cathedral

Where: 4 Canon Lane, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 1PX.

This centre is located in the heart of the Georgian city of Chichester, within the picturesque grounds of the cathedral’s close. A former archdeaconry, it has been restored to its former glory, and offers away days, meetings, quiet days, residential weekends, and conferences for up to 40 people. There is also a beautiful walled garden.

Facilities: Eight standard and eight en-suite bedrooms, two conference rooms, garden room, and an oratory for individual prayer.

Costs: 24-hour residential rate £80, if all eight rooms are booked together.

Contact: 01243 813586; email bookings@chichestercathedral.org.uk; or visit www.chichestercathedral.org.uk.


St Mary’s Convent

Where: 98 Hunters Road, Handsworth, Birmingham B19 1EB.

The retreat centre at this convent, in the centre of Birmingham, has undergone extensive refurbishment and is now open to the public, offering private and guided retreats. Guests may visit for a day, a few days, or longer, and can find peace and tranquillity in its quiet corridors and rooms. Guests are invited to spend time in the chapel, or walk in the gardens and enjoy time alone.

Facilities: 12 single rooms, one single and one family self-catering flat. Conference room for up to 30 people and fully equipped meeting room for up to 15 people.

Costs: Suggested donation: 24-hour full-board £60; half-board £50; B&B £40; days £35 (catered), non-catered £25.

Contact: 0121 554 3271 / 07752 146323; email spirituality@mercyhandsworth.org.uk; or visit www.mercyhandsworth.co.uk.

Alison MacTier is executive director of the Retreat Association. (www.retreats.org.uk)

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