For how long a period should any priest be away from his or her parish on retreat?
I’ve just booked five nights away in the autumn to give me four full days. My guess is that this quite normal, and it will hardly inconvenience any parish arrangements or cover.
I’d have to say that some years I’ve not made this provision at all, that such an annual gesture is quite a minimalistic contribution to deepening my spirituality, and that I can hardly parade my devotion when the number of days when I even arrive for Morning Prayer early enough for some silent mediation first is probably outweighed by the number when I don’t.
Neverthless, I wonder whether an expectation that we’d each regularly do something much more significant which disrupts our own life and parish life would be more fruitful and give a much clearer message to ourselves and to those to whom we minister about what we are about.
The question came to my mind when I was asked to do some proof reading or consumer testing on the new clergy handbook shortly before it went live on the diocese’s website at the beginning of the month; the process of introducing new tenure arrangements for most clergy on that day required the publication of such guidelines.
I just happened to notice that it says we are ‘encouraged to take time for an annual retreat’ but ‘it is suggested that this should not exceed six days’ whereas I know the national Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of Clergy developed several years ago in anticipation of the new tenure arrangements also speaks of ‘an annual opportunity to make a retreat’ but adds ‘of at least a week’s duration’. The subtle difference may actually be significant.
Meanwhile, we are told that it is the combination of the heavy weight of snow on evergreen branches a short while ago, the drying out in the weeks since, and the high winds of the last week which has made bits fall off many fir trees in particular, including these ones along the western edge of St Nicolas’ churchyard.
We’ve put up notices warning people to keep clear. We’ll have a tree expert in next week to assess the whole churchyard where little work of this sort has been done in the last few years. We’ll then need to begin spending money on anything which is actually dangerous making a further dent in the church’s limited Fabric Fund.