On Saturday March 7th I attended a Quiet Day in St Michael’s Convent, Ham. This was my first experience of spending a day when I wasn’t required to perform-only to attend and listen and it was with misgivings that I decided at the last minute to sign up. Could I be quiet and not feel restless and bored?
Luckily the day was simply glorious and as I arrived and saw the beautiful gardens surrounding the convent, I knew that the outside walking part was bound to be a success! Then other participants arrived, many of whom were familiar faces and we sat in a circle with our facilitator, Chris. Having introduced ourselves we were asked to sit and listen to the noises that surrounded us. I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds of bird song, distant planes and traffic and the very human sounds of breathing and rumbling stomachs! Chris then read to us in his gentle voice introducing us to words of Etty Hillesum.
“Life may be brimming over with experiences, but somewhere deep inside; all of us carry a vast and fruitful loneliness wherever we go. And sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths; or the turning inward in prayer for five short minutes”
After more beautiful readings we were then invited to wander around the garden in silence. This was a strange but calming experience. There was no pressure to make conversation with people-just to take in the glory of the day and the surroundings. All around the garden were dotted benches and arbours where one could sit and just be. Extraordinary and powerful!
A service in the chapel followed and then, having had lunch, we returned to the circle and were given ways to think about prayer. Chris suggested that though we’re not always able to be in a quiet place to pray, we can find time to be still and to speak to God in our own way. He gave us passages to read that again were moving and thought-provoking but all in an atmosphere of gentleness and calm.
Another longer period of silence followed when we could either walk or just sit in the garden and discover ways of praying before we met again for the last brief sharing of thoughts and feelings about the day.
I can’t speak for others but I found the day very rewarding and restorative and, for a while at least, I felt that God was walking by my side.
Many thanks to Alison, Peter and Chris for a truly memorable day.