We would be hardpressed to find a time of year when many people experience more expectations, more social engagements, more targeted advertising, and well, just more, than the beginning of December. An Advent Quiet Day can be one small way to let people reorient themselves to the season, to know the blessings of silence, resting in community, prayer, and creativity. It can be a powerful time of Christian formation and a way to experience the sacred time of the Holy Spirit. This post will give you some concrete tips on planning, promoting, and setting up an Advent Quiet Day. While the focus is Advent, you can adapt and use these tips for a Lenten or other seasonal Quiet Day. At the bottom of this post, I've uploaded and linked some Quiet Day templates.
Pick a Time
A common time for Quiet Days is the first Saturday in Advent. This year it’s December 8th. But if another day or evening works better for people, go for it! A full Quiet Day generally lasts for six hours, from 9:00am to 3:00pm for example, but if you only have time to offer a two or three hour program, that’s fine too. See the samples below.
Pick a theme
Once you have picked a time, now the fun begins! Quiet Days don’t have to have a theme but I think they work better with one and it can help promote the event. Adult learners prefer to know what benefits the day can offer them and a theme can help them address a relevant issue. A theme can also help knit together the church’s seasons and the seasons of their lives. Make sure it’s a theme that engages you as a leader as well. Some sample themes include:
- Waiting for God - Participants can explore scriptures about waiting, what waiting means in Advent, how waiting can be a spiritual practice, reflecting on the experience of waiting in their own lives
- The Practice of Hope - What do voices from scripture, tradition, and reason/experience say about hope? What is the hope of Jesus’ birth and hope of his final coming? How is hope practiced in everyday life?
- Preparing the Way: John the Baptist, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Mary - Exploring with imagination the stories of four biblical characters who, in different ways, responded to the news that salvation was near.
- The Gifts of Winter - Observe how the physical and behavioural changes in land, flora and fauna, and ourselves can help us observe a quieter Advent. Explore the gifts and challenges of the “winter” of life. E.g. Reflect on Advent hymns and poems with winter imagery such as People Look East and images of aging in Psalm 71.
Prepare brief addresses
To set the tone of the day and explore the theme, prepare one to three brief addresses (five to seven minutes each) to share with the group. These addresses can draw on scripture, hymnody, art, poetry, film, and nature to engage participants in the theme and stimulate their own reflection. Addresses can include a shared activity such as a guided meditation or prayer practice. End the address with a question or two to ponder and an invitation to respond to the theme with different options for activity.
Plan activity options
Quiet Days allow people to choose the contemplative, reflective activities that they are drawn to. After an address, make options available to participants for how they can spend their time and respond to the theme of the day. Options include:
- Meditative walking in the neighbourhood or inside the church building
- Journaling using writing and/or drawing
- Colouring with theme appropriate illustrations or Celtic knots. Supply pencil crayons, felts, and/or crayons
- Silent prayer/meditation in a quiet room or chapel.
- Devotional reading. Offer a small collection of devotional books, prayer books, translations of scripture.
- Labyrinth walking – it doesn’t need to be a full-size walking labyrinth, although there are some available for loan. See here. Finger labyrinths can work too. Download a sample here.
- Spiritual direction – participants can sign up for 20 minute conversations with a spiritual director
- Anointing for Healing - make a time available when a clergy person can offer anointing for healing for whomever wishes to receive it for themselves or on behalf of another.
Promote the Event
Quiet Days can be a good first introduction for people to your parish’s life, values, and prayer. Very few places offer a time of intentional quiet and respite in the middle of the city or suburb or neighbourhood. Create a title for the day, a brief blurb, registration info, and include a compelling image. Promote on your church’s sign or sandwich board, the bulletin, email newsletter, website, posters in the neighbourhood, and social media such as Facebook or Instagram. Four to six weeks in advance of the day is probably sufficient time to promote, and ramp it up in the last two weeks since most people will register just days before the deadline. Depending on your context, charging a registration fee can increase commitment and sense of value. At the end of the event, offer people resources for further spiritual formation in your parish whether it be a bible study or prayer group, contact details for spiritual directors, or email notifications of upcoming Quiet Days.
Prepare the Space
If you can, reserve the whole church building’s space. This will enhance the freedom and quiet participants can enjoy. Choose a gathering room that is accessible and warm with comfortable seating in a circle or semicircle. Have an Advent wreath and/or other aids to prayer and seasonal worship in the participants’ midst. Arrive early to give yourself lots of time to prepare and center yourself. Have food and drinks prepared and put up signs to point to meeting room, washrooms, chapel, parking, etc. At the beginning of the time, give an outline of the day and orient people to the rooms/building.
Sample Templates A number of clergy leaders in the diocese graciously shared their outlines for a Quiet Day. Some are also willing to have you contact them for any consultation or questions you might have about Quiet Days. Many thanks to the Reverends Stephen Rowe, Kevin Hunt, and Dixie Black.
- A Quiet Morning
- A four hour Quiet Day with contact info to consult the creator
- A full Quiet Day with a hymnody theme
Try before you Buy (in)?
Maybe you're not ready to plan and offer a Quiet Day, maybe you simply need to experience one instead? Here are some Advent Quiet Days already scheduled in the diocese that you can attend: