Servant Leader Training Retreat, 2019

Participants in 2019 Servant Leadership retreat
Participants: back row (L to R) Glen Mower, Margaret McNulty, Jackie Evans, Elaine Wilkins, Clare Cole, Carole O'Reilly, Rev. Mel King; front row Julie Burnett-Kirk, Bella Cranmore, Jill Benet. Rev. Mark Waters took the picture.

Another training week for servant leadership was held at The House of Prayer during May this year, lead by Jill Benet and Jacqueline Evans. A big thank you also goes to the House of Prayer for looking after us so well in many ways.

Participant Margaret McNulty provided the following assessment:

The course was a wonderful experience as well as a deepening of the practice and of my understanding of the teaching. It was good to revisit the essentials:

  • Prayer as relationship developing through the stages of acquaintanceship to friendliness to friendship and then intimacy, just as a human relationship develops
  • The method of Centering Prayer - revisiting the four guidelines
  • Thoughts and the use of the sacred word – a deeper exploration
  • Deepening our relationship with God

We were asked to stick to the format but “make it our own” so that we “transmitted“ our enthusiasm and commitment. Some however did find this difficult because the language and style felt uncomfortable and inauthentic to them.

Though we were all using the same material and hearing it several times I found myself still attentive and involved with each presentation and picking up on the nuances of the teaching and practice as each person presented the same material in their own way. It was useful to have the opportunity to voice our reactions and responses in the feedback sessions. This shared discomfort of adapting and adjusting to the material and empathising with each other’s difficulties helped bond us into a real Christian community. The daily practice of two double periods of Centering Prayer together also created that bond.

It was good to have fun together on the last evening with what was billed as “alternative methods”.

We were all deeply moved by the reading out loud of The Vision of Contemplative Outreach:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.

Luke 10:27

We embrace the process of transformation in Christ, both in ourselves and in others, through the practice of Centering Prayer.

And also by hearing the Theological Principles with commentary (which sounds as though it would be as dry as dust!).

We all felt that Contemplative Outreach must and will evolve to adapt to today’s needs and conditions. It was good therefore, to be reminded in a letter from Thomas Keating that this material was “the result of immense effort, collaboration, and a lengthy process of discernment” and also that “As people grow in grace and experience, various other expressions of the Vision may unfold” but to keep in mind that “it is important to balance this inspiration with the conviction that the Spirit is also at work in the leadership and the materials and resources that have evolved up to now”.

Thanks to Jill and Jacqueline, our lovely Facilitators, for holding it all together. Thanks for their humour, understanding and encouragement - and not least for their marvellously funny performance on that last evening!