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Travel and retreats: Time to heal

25 January 2019

Many retreat houses host retreats to help address some of the difficult issues of contemporary life. Alison MacTier looks at some of what’s on offer in 2019

People struggling with pain and loss can get support, understanding, and at prayer at Penhurst Retreat Centre, near Battle, East Sussex

People struggling with pain and loss can get support, understanding, and at prayer at Penhurst Retreat Centre, near Battle, East Sussex


THE Ignatian Spirituality Centre in Glasgow is offering a retreat “talking about mental illness” on 16-17 March, led by the psychiatrist Dr Gill Yellowlees. It explores how to support people suffering from mental illness and also their carers. Areas covered include stress, anxiety, depression, and psychosis. The centre is run by the Jesuits, but the staff team is ecumenical, and the welcome is extended to people of any denomination, as well as to those open to the Christian faith. It is non-residential.

Cost: £25 per day.

Contact: 35 Scott Street, Glasgow, G3 6PE. Phone 0141 354 0077; email admin@iscglasgow.co.uk; visit www.iscglasgow.co.uk.


DOUAI ABBEY, a Benedictine community near Reading, is holding a weekend retreat “From Addiction to Grace: The 12-Step Path Through the Psalms”, 10-12 May. The retreat, led by the therapist counsellor Fr David Barrett, who is also a priest in the Roman Catholic diocese of Northampton, will look at how the Psalms can be used on people’s journeys of recovery.

Cost: £160 (all rooms en-suite); £128pp for those sharing.

Contact: Woolhampton, Reading, Berkshire, RG7 5TQ. Phone 0118 971 5310/0118 971 5399; email gabriel@douaiabbey.org.uk; visit www.douaiabbey.org.uk.

THE Pilsdon Community, near Bridport, in west Dorset, is a Christian community, offering support to those with issues of addiction or mental health. The community’s daily pattern of life includes a balance of prayer, manual work, hospitality, and recreation. Pilsdon invites others to share in their community life as core members, volunteers, or as guests. Guests include people who need a supportive environment after detox, and people who are struggling with mental health or some kind of life crisis. Visitors wanting to stay for a night or a weekend can simply turn up and stay for free every six weeks; those wanting to stay longer must apply, provide references, and make a small weekly contribution towards living expenses. Pilsdon is a dry community. It also has en-suite guest accommodation available for short retreats, priced around £50 pppn full-board.

Contact: Pilsdon Manor, Pilsdon, Bridport, Dorset DT6 5NZ. Phone 01308 868308; email pilsdon@pilsdon.org.uk; visit www.pilsdon.org.uk.

The view from Nicholaston Christian Retreat and Conference Centre, on the Gower peninsula, the location of retreats related to eating disorders


PENHURST Retreat Centre, near Battle, in East Sussex, is running a divorce-recovery workshop, 15-17 March, led by a spiritual director and retired accredited counsellor, Mandy Callf, and a colleague, Sue Clipsham. It seeks to make sense of divorce and offer ways of moving forward at whatever stage participants find themselves. Content includes topics such as: “Is this really happening to me?”; “Coping with your ex-spouse”; “Assuming new responsibilities”; “Letting go and forgiveness”; “Family matters”; and “Thinking about new relationships”.

Cost: £195.

Contact: The Manor House, Penhurst, Battle, East Sussex TN33 9QP. Phone Mandy, 07743 243828, or Sue, 07886 552 964; email info@penhurst.org.uk; visit www.penhurst.org.uk.


CHELMSFORD Diocesan House of Retreat, in the village of Pleshey, in Essex, offer three “Living with. . .” days each year. On 4 May, the topic is “Living with Unemployment”, led by the Priest-in-Charge of St Andrew’s, Romford, the Revd Lara Dose, who is lead chaplain for the Romford Town Centre Chaplaincy Team. The day seeks to be reflective and exploratory for anyone who is unemployed, or who is facing the prospect of being unemployed. It is also relevant for family, friends, ministers, and pastoral workers who want to better understand some of the pressures that unemployment can bring.

Cost: £29 including lunch; bursaries are available.

Contact: The Street, Pleshey, Chelmsford, Essex CM3 1HA. Phone 01245 237251; email: retreathouse@chelmsford.anglican.org; visit www.retreathousepleshey.com.

General healing

PENHURST Retreat Centre, near Battle, in East Sussex, is offering a healing retreat focused on pain and loss, 6-10 May, led by Jennifer Rees Larcombe and Carol Bostock, both of whom are based with Beauty from Ashes (a Kent-based healing ministry). Find healing for difficult questions, disappointment, heartbreak, and hidden pain. There is an opportunity for one-to-one prayer ministry. The same retreat runs from 23-27 September, led by Ms Larcombe and others from the Beauty from Ashes team.

Cost: £355 residential, £255 non-residential.

Contact: The Manor House, Penhurst, Battle, East Sussex TN33 9QP. Phone 01424 892088; email nfo@penhurst.org.uk; visit www.penhurst.org.uk.

ashmills.comSarum College (located within the Cathedral Close on the north side of Salisbury Cathedral) is hosting a workshop to support dementia carers

Dementia carers

SARUM College, in Salisbury, is running a one-day workshop on 29 November, “Dementia: Who cares for the carers?” The day will provide opportunities to hear carers’ stories and reflect on their needs for practical and spiritual support. Peter Kevern, the course leader, is associate professor in Values in Care at the University of Staffordshire. His work explores the interface between religion and health, ageing and/or death. The workshop is suitable for carers, those thinking about becoming a carer, organisations supporting carers, and churches wanting to become more dementia-friendly.

Costs: £60 including a three-course lunch and refreshments (bursaries available).

Contact: 19 The Close, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP1 2EE. Phone 01722 424800, email courses@sarum.ac.uk; visit www.sarum.ac.uk.

THE Sisters of St Andrew, in London, facilitate sessions called “Come Away” one Thursday a month, from 10.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m., for those who care for a loved one suffering from ill-health. A time to pause, reflect, listen, and share. The sessions are led by Sister Regula Hug, who has worked as a mental-health and hospital chaplain and who saw the need for a space with spiritual and religious support for family members. The session usually includes time to socialise and talk about experiences, ask questions, and support each other. There is some spiritual input, a time of silent reflection/prayer, and a short time of prayer together. Check dates on the website, which is updated each term, or phone for dates.

Cost: Suggested donation £5-15.

Contact: 99 Belmont Hill, Lewisham, London, SE13 5DY. Phone 020 8852 1662; email welcome@sisters-of-st-andrew.com; visit www.sisters-of-st-andrew.com.

Eating disorders

NICHOLASTON House, on the Gower, near Swansea, is running several Overcoming Eating Disorders courses during 2019: 18-22 February (Foundations); 3-7 June (Connections); 5-9 August (Transitions). The courses are led by the psychotherapist Helena Wilkinson, the director of Nicholaston House, who has worked with eating disorder sufferers for the past 30 years. Each course is limited to eight delegates, and is open to those with an eating disorder, or those with chaotic eating patterns. The Foundations course looks at the part played by eating disorders; thought patterns; what prevents change; keeping safe; identity; and worth. The Transitions course considers unmet needs; the wounded heart; shame; stress; anxiety; loneliness; defence mechanisms; and building blocks to emotional heath. The Connections course is more experientially based than the other courses, addressing individual needs. The Foundation course must be completed before applying for the Transition course.

Cost: £449.

Contact: Nicholaston Christian Retreat and Conference Centre, Penmaen, Gower, Swansea SA3 2HL. Phone 01792 371317; email retreats@nicholastonhouse.org; visit www.nicholastonhouse.org.

Alison MacTier is the executive director of the Retreat Association. For more information, phone 01494 569056; email info@retreats.org.uk; or visit www.retreats.org.uk.

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