What is a retreat for?

I’m planning on going on my next weekend retreat at the end of March. I’m still undecided where to go. I thought initially St Cuthman’s in West Sussex might be suitable, although I have an April retreat planned also in West Sussex – and Poor Clares, my January retreat was in West Sussex… so maybe I need to visit another part of the country.

I’ll be in Oxford for a couple of days with work at the end of the month so now I’m thinking an Oxford retreat would be really convenient.

While researching one that caught my eye was St Ethelwold’s House in Abingdon, not far from Oxford. It looks cute, chic almost – and isn’t a convent (the two retreats I’ve been on so far have been convents).

St Ethelwold's - a chic looking retreat

It calls itself an ‘open spirituality centre’ and is rooted in the Christian contemplative tradition. It says on its website it ‘offers a haven of peace and tranquillity in a beautiful 14th century house in the centre of Abingdon with lovely gardens leading down to the River Thames.’  It sounds perfect, so I sent them an email to see if they have availability.

It appears to have a very open spirituality approach from the events listed on the website – there is tai chi, yoga classes, meditation circle meetings etc.

While browsing retreat websites I came across a helpful article on what to do while on retreat. So far while on retreat I’ve tended to be a little unfocused, drifting from one book to the next, one thought to the next.

I haven’t come across many ‘guides’ explaining what to do on a retreat, so I thought the following, which I came across on Stanton House’s website (a Christian retreat house also in Oxfordshire), might come in handy for future retreats:

Space for God…

The many demands of our daily routine can make it hard to make space for God. We find ourselves needing time – time to be alone, to unwind, to do nothing, to catch up with ourselves; time to read, to think, to feel, to be creative; time to look back and plan ahead, to speak and to listen, to lay things down and to take up new challenges; time to take stock, to pray, and to deepen our relationship with God.

What can you do on retreat?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Relax! Don’t feel guilty if you simply want to rest and sleep.
  • Read your Bible or books of your choice.
  • Listen to tapes.
  • Spend time in prayer – in private, in the grounds or out walking.
  • Go for country walks, and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells.

How can you make the most of your retreat?

  • Be creative:
    Writing, drawing or painting may help you express your thoughts, feelings, or insights.
  • Be disciplined:
    Writing a journal may assist your retreat, enabling you to go back to things later.
  • Be open to help:
    You may find it helpful to have a member of the team to talk to or to pray with you.

Before you leave, what should you do?

Look back over your stay:

  • What have you experienced?
  • Have you received or resolved anything?
  • Is there anything you have decided to do?


3 thoughts on “What is a retreat for?

  1. Hi,
    If you feel inspired we invite you to visit us in Assisi, Italy.
    The spirit of St. Francis and the silence here are golden opportunities to step inside, inside the sanctuary of our hearts…

    I enjoyed all your comments and retreat ideas.
    Wishing you the best,


  2. Hi,

    I agree I really believe in the power of retreats to bring ourselves back into a great place.

    We run some retreats for people who find them selves at a crossroads in their lifes and don’t know which way to go.

    more details at


  3. Dear Bruce,

    Ive been staying in Florence off and on for several years and at least twice a year feel the need to go to some kind of retreat.

    Maybe Assissi would be good. Please tell me how I can learn more and schedule and 2 day retreat, if possible.

    Thank you,


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