The Minister is On Retreat

Tim Parkman February 2024

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Some of you will read this wondering what it is all about, a retreat? Surely just another holiday. Well I suppose you could say that, but it is more than that and some things took me by surprise.

After a recent Leadership Team meeting I was presented with an envelope which was a very generous gift from the Leadership for a weeks retreat in Lee Abbey. I’m not sure if they wanted to get rid of me for a week or just thought I looked tired, but whatever the reason I was really grateful.

Let me try and explain what a retreat is. I know some people think I shouldn’t get holiday as I only work one hour a week, but setting a pattern of life and work has always been important to me. We always need times when we rest to build us up for work and this usually is a holiday when we physically rest, think of a retreat as a spiritual holiday, a chance to rest and be with God.

I went to Lee Abbey in North Devon, a wonderful place I have been before and I highly recommend anyone to go to. The week was led by Mark Melluish, the Diocesan Mission Enabler for the Diocese of Hereford. I found myself being the only Baptist in a sea of Anglicans (no comment needed). I just want to share some thoughts and reflections from the 5 days I was there.

Day One

I arrived and straight away felt quite awkward….. Was it the atmosphere, the people, the setting? No, it was even more stupid than that, someone offered to carry my bag to my room and I realised that where I was used to serving and carrying the bags for others, this was unchartered territory, where for a week I had to let others serve me.

WIth an opening session and dinner it was ready for bed after a quick hot chocolate.

Day Two

The format for the days is that we were led in the morning by Mark and then the afternoon we were given space to go off and do what we wanted. As you will see I spent some time walking, praying and sleeping 🙂

In the morning Mark led us through Exodus 15, speaking of the people of God and looking at the challenge of ministry and leading others. Looking at how sometimes God brings us into the wilderness to rely on him and looking at how one of the most prominent sins in the wilderness was grumbling!

We also looked at Joshua 3, and my overriding takeaway from this was that the Priest carrying the Ark had to step in the river before it stopped. Sometimes we need to take that step of faith and even though it is not clear or obvious what we need to do. Mark said that there are no miracles until we step out, but we need to get our hearts right to hear from God.

Day Three

Today was a deeply important day for me, we looked at John 5 and I had never realised there are so many different reflections on it. I think that when I am asked to preach elsewhere in future this will be my go to passage. I don’t want to spoil them here though. 

Mark made a comment that I felt quite struck by ‘I would rather be a part of a church that risked praying for healing, then didn’t pray for healing.’

In the afternoon I walked the reverse of the walk I did yesterday, and I regretted it as the short down hill that was the day before seemed a very long uphill!!

In the evening there was an hours look at Faith and Film and the way in which films can help us talk about faith and some of the themes that come through.

Day Four

This was the hardest day. My thoughts started bouncing back to the emails and things I needed to sort out when I return the next day.

Mark spoke about the wedding in Cana in Mark 2, we all need a Mary, someone who will push us and see the ability we have within us and encourage us even when we don’t think we can do it. We also need to be Mary’s to others. The way Mark put it was we need someone who loves us and shoves us.

In the afternoon I went for a walk up tho the crosses on the hill, it was a lovely shorter walk with the animals and along the coast.

After that we had a service of prayer ministry. I will be honest, I found it hard to go forward and ask for prayer, sometime I need to work through with my pastoral supervisor, but I was quite content and happy where I was in my chair and knew that where as others were there as they were struggling, I was there in a place of rest and ready to get back.

Day Five

Breakfast and home.

Thank you to those who paid for this and for those that held things together whilst I was away. Was I spiritually refreshed, yes, but I also came back with a list of ideas…. I mean, of course I would and the Leadership have heard most of them 🙂

Thanks again and I would encourage you to find your own retreat, even if for an hour or a day. A time when you can be spiritually renewed. 

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