URC :: Spirituality

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United Reformed Church Spirituality articles:

When retreats are not possible

Mark Argent
4 September 2019

In retreat circles it is terribly easy to talk as if it is obvious that people should go on retreats and quiet days. Often that is the right thing to do and to encourage, but sometimes it isn’t. Pushing someone to make a retreat when the money is not there, or when personal circumstances mean they can’t go away, risks giving the message that God is not available to them. If the sacrifice someone makes to go on a retreat or quiet day is too great, it can undermine the experience.

In the URC I can easily think of people of real depth who fall into these groups. There might be a rich conversation between these and people who don’t see going on retreat as particularly “Reformed”. The point is that it is more important to be real than “Reformed”.

Rather than talk of lack, is it possible to see being unable to go on retreats or on quiet days as an invitation to meet God where one is?

Going on a retreat and expecting the retreat centre to magically provide the “God experience” usually leads to an unsatisfactory retreat. Lessening the expectations usually leads to a richer retreat and less of a sense of loss if a retreat is not possible: if the itch for God is real, God will be encountered wherever we are.