Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near (Isa.55:6).
While the term “retreat” is often times loosely used to include conferences, church camps or business strategy and team-building events, none of these are what we mean by the term here.
In the Bible we see Jesus inaugurated his ministry by spending 40 days in the desert (Luke 4:1). Before he chose the disciples he spent the entire night alone in the desert hills (Luke 6:12). After the miraculous feeding of the 5000, Jesus “went up to a lonely place by himself (Matt 14:23). When the twelve returned from a preaching and healing mission, Jesus instructed them, “come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). It is clear that Jesus seeks out solitude and silence to be with his Father, and to listen to his word.
Retreat is a time when we practice to “be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10); to affirm that “there is a time to be silent and a time to speak” (Ecc 3:7).
A retreat is a time set aside to be with God. It is a time to lay aside our agenda and many of the normal things that fill our lives and our minds, and to focus more completely on God’s agenda for us. It is not so much a time to learn new things as to remember and feel again some of the things we have forgotten. It is a time to be lovingly attentive to the needs of our soul.
A retreat opens the time and space so that we may hear God’s still, small voice. This time of retreat is not about accomplishing anything, getting somewhere, or going home with answers. It is about listening and waiting, receiving and being. As our senses open and we take time to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell, we may experience gratitude. It is an exclusive time for God and to enjoy Him.
There are several different types of retreat and they include:
1. Directed Retreats
Directed Retreats (i.e. retreats with the guidance of a spiritual director) are times away from the usual routines of life and work to deepen our relationship with God whom we know most profoundly in Jesus Christ. Directed retreats vary in length, typically from two to seven days. They vary in style and content but include daily spiritual direction and commonly also include time each day for communal prayer, reflection and Holy Communion. Silence is usually an important aspect of the retreat, with some retreats having specified times of silence and others being fully silent.
2. Guided Retreats
These are based around talks on a theme given by the retreat leader(s) or director(s) 2-3 times a day (often about 20 minutes in length) followed by times for personal meditation, reflection, prayer and silence. Various spiritual exercises, activities, or Scripture passages are suggested for each of the sessions. There are scheduled Morning and Evening Prayers. Silence is usually observed with optional fellowship time during meals and or sharing at the end of the day or end of the whole retreat. On some guided retreats, spiritual direction sessions are offered as an option for those who request them. Guided retreats range from one to five days and usually work best with a number between ten to twenty retreatants.
3. Preached Retreats
These retreats are similar to a guided retreat in that the retreat director will preach on a certain topic once or twice a day (30 – 40 minutes in length) and may provide some reflection questions or Scripture passages for meditation. The length of the retreat varies, but silence is observed throughout (including meal times). There will be Morning and Evening Prayer conducted by the retreat director. Spiritual Direction is available daily and often required for those who are new to silent retreats.
4. Home Retreats or Retreat for Daily Life (according to the 19th Annotation of Ignatius Spiritual Exercise)
The Home Retreat is an Eight-week (not including the Introduction week and Ending week of Celebration) retreat designed to take the retreatant through the Life of Christ with various approaches to prayer based on the principles from the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. As each week builds up the experience of the previous week, it is necessary to attend all the sessions. The group (ideally no less than 5 and no more than 10) will meet with the Retreat Director for 2 hours weekly at a designated home (place to be agreed upon formation). During that time there will be a reflection on the Theme of the week given by the Director, time and opportunity for Faith Sharing (taking turn to share and listen to each other’s experiences / stories) and praying together.
Each week the retreatant will be provided with selections from the Scripture and/or passages from a spiritual author to help bring out the theme of the week and assist the retreatant for prayer. At least 15 minutes a day is suggested for prayer. This time is the most important part of the Retreat, it is here that the Lord will be able to speak to the retreatant and direct him/her in His way. As the Retreat progresses the retreatant may find himself/herself drawn to give more time each day to prayer. You are asked to do something intentional each day to nourish your spirit like: take a walk, sit in silent, do some art work, read, exercise, stare out the window, cook a dish, or do whatever is nourishing to you. In the completion of this ten-week, you will be able to continue the applications into your daily life.
5. Day of Quiet
A Day of Quiet is a day set aside (typically from 9am to 5pm) to be with the Lord in silence. It can be a guided, contemplative, or a total silent format in its approach. Generally, this is a good way to introduce or induct a new comer’s interest in having a retreat experience. It is common to end the retreat with retreatants sharing their experience and with a Communion Service.
6. Contemplative Retreats
A contemplative retreat is characterized by silence and solitude, meditation and contemplation. It could be conducted around simple liturgical form like using the Book of Common Prayer, for the morning and evening prayers. Retreatants will then meditate on the scripture passage(s) and contemplate in silence. It can take the form of a Labyrinth walk, the use of the Jesus Prayer, Breath Prayer, Centering Prayer or Praying with Icons. Whatever the form or content or length of the retreat, silence, listening, waiting, attending, tarrying, gazing, just being, are the main characteristics of a contemplative retreat. Often held at a remote retreat centre, usually within nature, where external silence and God’s creation provides the natural habitat for such retreats.
Retreats can be specially tailored for your church members, small groups, ministry groups, organizations as well as for personal individuals. Make an appointment for a conversation and discernment as to what is most appropriate to your unique context.