On Friday (snowy conditions permitting!) I head off down to St Asaph, North Wales, to take an 8 day silent retreat at St Beunos Ignatian Spirituality Centre. I suddenly know loads of people who are planning a retreat there this year- well, 4 or 5 anyway. It seems that the new direction of many of us who have been on a journey from evangelical/charismatic Christianity, via emerging/missional metamorphosis, is towards older forms of monastic contemplation- and silence in particular.
It is not surprising really when you think about it. People like me who have been immersed in leading worship have always been longing for a deeper connection with God. In the past the methods to connect have included the intense cauldron of ecstatic worship music, through to creating open spaces with non directive ‘stations’, or spending time in wild places watching the changing skies. The journey has been away from the large auditorium towards older, simpler traditions.
I do not think there is any kind of technique that gives us some kind of hot line to God. I do however remember the Abbot of Worth Abbey making statements about “silence being the window to the soul, and the soul being the window to God- it just works that way.” It feels like the right time to test this theory- not just for me it seems.
Not without some apprehension however! 8 days in my own head. It might be an unpleasant place, a boring place, a dysfunctional place, a darn right depressing place. I expect to miss my home and family desperately. I expect to be tested and broken a little (or a lot.) Or worse than all of this, it could be an empty experience, a waste of time- a self absorbed narcissistic backwater.
Appropriately the Emergent Village minimergent yesterday was as follows;
If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death.