“This is the path of unknowing and knowing, of being loved and loving, of letting go and taking hold.” (Rev. Philip Roderick, Anglican Priest, Diocese of Oxford, England). This quote, from the founder of the Contemplative Fire (www.contemplativefire.ca), reflects the core experiences of the 16 participants who attended the St. Bartholomew’s Lenten Retreat day on April 6, 2019 (Gibsons, BC).
Facilitated by the Rev. Anne Crosthwait, (Community Leader, Contemplative Fire) the day’s activities met the goals of “Finding Lenten Stillness with Centering Prayer.” Anne Crosthwait is an Anglican priest, recently retired from the diocese of Toronto, who relocated to a small ocean side community outside of Vancouver. In her role as a Community Leader in Contemplative Fire she is part of a new-monastic movement that is “creating a community of Christ at the edge.” Contemplative Fire was birthed as a Fresh Expression of the Church of England in 2003, by the Rev. Philip Roderick.
The Retreat was Anne’s first visit to the Parish of St. Bartholomew's. She skillfully facilitated a quiet day of prayer, sharing, creativity and meditation as well as shared learnings about finding simplicity in the rhythms of life. Participants spent the morning in silence in the parish hall where various self-directed, contemplative activities were available. The “wilderness and water” station offered the following guidance: ‘wilderness time is challenging, stretching and strengthening. It can feel dry and barren. And there is water in it too. Come to this water, dip your hands into it, be washed whenever you need it. As you prepare to leave the wilderness, wash your hands, be refreshed, leave the dryness behind.’
Time was also spent engaging in additional “wilderness” stations including: Surrender - ‘Is there something or someone that you might release?’; Deep Reading - ‘Do you seek to hear the assuring words of God’s Presence?; Life’s Knots and Tangles - ‘Are you in a season where life seems to bring one difficultly or disappointment after another?’; and God Boxes - ‘a place to tuck away hopes and concerns to give them to God who is always listening, always loving.’ In the afternoon we returned to the parish sanctuary to pray and meditate in a beautiful setting of stained glass and candle light. Together, the day’s activities supported participants to deepen the “pure, loving gaze that finds God everywhere” (Brother Lawrence).
The participants - members of Anglican and Catholic parishes on the Sunshine Coast - gathered not only to share the Retreat experience, but also to exchange information about existing contemplative prayer groups in the Gibsons area. One participant observed, “I have wanted to get back to Centering Prayer for awhile and have found it difficult to practice on my own. This provided an opportunity to meet others living in the same area, with similar spiritual needs and hopes. We have now opened the doors to the opportunity to attend an existing weekly meditation group in Gibsons and also to form a new Centering Prayer group at St. Bartholomew's.”
Feedback from participants included: “The Retreat more than met our expectations; it helped us become more grounded in the ‘peace which passeth all understanding’”; and, “the day was exactly what I needed. I was able to completely retreat from the ‘hustle and bustle‘ of my everyday life.”
Right after the closing prayer at the end of the day, one participant eagerly asked, “When is Anne coming back again?”
Contemplating the Wilderness and Water Station
Creating Memories and Art
The Meditation Table
The Group Shot
A selection of God Boxes for Decoration
Photos: Steve Bailey and Pamela McElheran