I spent this weekend on retreat with my chapel. It was the first time I had ever undertaken a retreat and the first time I had spent any time in contemplative silence, and it was a powerfully moving experience.

We were a group of fifteen, including the retreat leader who is a priest and prayer leader with a fascinating past, having been born in Trinidad and spending time in many African countries as well as in England. The rest of the group were split fairly evenly between people who are either ordained or working towards ordination, and students – mostly graduates. I couldn’t have found a better way to prepare for my baptism next week; every question I raised was answered by at least three people with great insight and knowledge, and the ensuing disagreements and debates were very informative.

I found it reassuring to discover that even the clergy don’t know the “correct” answer to any question, and that doubts and questions don’t impede a close relationship with God. I loved listening to people talk with such passion about something that I am only beginning to explore, and knowing that they will continue to provide support and guidance as I make my way along this path.

I wasn’t the only person who had questions or doubts. Every one of us was struggling with our own internal conflicts, and the five group sessions which were centred around inspiring poetry helped everyone in their own ways. In between sessions we attended the daily offices of morning prayer, evensong and compline. Returning to an environment where communal worship is not just weekly or daily but several times a day called to mind the way I felt last summer while on a sacred music course. It once again brought to the surface the question of whether I am called to a more spirtually centered life. I don’t feel that I have a vocation for ordination, but a life of service in a religious community is an idea that never quite goes away.

The idea puts me in a place of conflict, however, and I was helped greatly by discussions with various people over the course of the weekend. I feel as though I’m standing at a fork in the road. Down one path is the commonplace life of a job, a career, a family; commonplace but appealing. Down the other is a life less usual, of days structured around prayer and membership of a God-centred community. I am inclined to see the two as wholly incompatible and feel rooted to the spot by my inability to choose between them, but I was helped particularly by a girl slightly younger than me who was working at the retreat house during her vacation from university. She told me that she had spent a year there, working and serving the community in order to discern whether her path lay with the priesthood or elsewhere. Although still filled with questions, she felt that her year gave her the time and space to grow into a closer relationship with Christ and understand what God had planned for her.

I will attempt to hold on to some of the peace and tranquility which was so inherent in the house and our time there. I’m considering attending morning prayer at a local church, which takes place each weekday except Mondays, although the thought of getting out of bed at half past six every morning is quite alarming. I will try to remember that I don’t have to make decisions right now and set the rest of my life in stone. I simply have to keep walking along and trusting in God’s plan for me, keep myself centred in prayer and stop worrying!

Advertisements