I have a lovely DVD at home, called 'Into Great Silence' filmed in a Carthusian monastery in the Alps. Nothing really happens in it, just the monks of the place live their lives in silence. They get to talk on, if I recall, Sunday afternoon. Sunday afternoons were rather playful and gossipy. I much watch it again - it must be three years since I last did so.
Today I've just ended my time in a 48 hour silent retreat with folk from the diocese. Maybe a little top heavy: the retreat leader (lately the warden of a theological college), the bishop, the dean, the cathedral provost, the congregational development officer, plus a retired cleric who was incredibly involved in selection and training for many years in England. Out of a group of 12 people. But, in silence, you don't really notice. Meals shared in silence, sitting in the common room of a college on an island, worship the only 'official' spoken words. It is a good, comfortable time. I like silence. I find that useful things bubble up.
I'm not much good at just being silent and still. A new ipad (which I'm using to write this) and the temptations of work, email, Twitter and Facebook are all there. Wifi and some limited mobile phone signal make this temptation present. Is it realistic to shut out all distractions? I don't believe so. Things that need to be done bubble up, exchanges with people who have been long neglected on Twitter (I blame Tweetdeck, harder to update followers), sharing the fact of a silent retreat with others back in the world. All this feels legitimate, with leaving behind duties, visits, the business of parish and family life.
And the unreal sense that all that has continued in this 60 hours or so on an island. The problems that family face, illnesses, the fallout from church events, spiritual and practical. The family continuing with their school, work, eating, watching TV. It all continues, even as we 12 on the island were silent and a little chilly in the Victorian cathedral next door.
Tomorrow is back to 'normal' but with a sense of peace and recharging, I hope. The theme, 'Hope in small things' was helpful and encouraging. The artwork and scripture and poetry was evocative and powerful. A good time!
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