Sunday, 12 July 2015

Abiding at the Vine

After a couple of weeks away in lovely Pembrokeshire it was always the plan to end my sabbatical on retreat again, using the time to draw deep from God, as if I was taking a deep breath of fresh air, before returning to the hectic pace of ministry. Circumstances meant that I was looking for somewhere in South Wales or the West Country, and via a google search or two I came across the inviting website of the The Vine set in the lovely Costwold village of Hullavington.

I was somewhat apprehensive about visiting a new place on my own and after a lovely but fairly 'full-on' fortnight away with two pre-schoolers, was expecting to need plenty of time to slow down to God's pace. I was pleasantly surprised. The accommodation at The Vine was akin to a luxury Cotswold B&B complete with a beautifully renovated little chapel and great coffee. It would be easy to turn this post into a trip advisor review (and a very favourable one it would be too), but the wonderful hospitality wasn't the whole story.

I had shared a little of my context with the curators of the retreat house and asked if they had any resources that would help me reflect on a happy and healthy pattern of discipleship and ministry for the next few months and years. They kindly lent me some books to read and far away from a good wifi connection I got reading and reflecting.

I began to flick through few books but was struck by a particular one that seemed very practical, down to earth and had the largest print(!), called Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro. I recalled as I began to read that I had heard the author give a synopsis of the book on a DVD at a conference in Lancashire and was struck then by the simple and practical steps he had taken to recover from ministry burn-out. Here isn't the time to share some of the personal things about the renewed sense of what God has called me to and how that fits into where I am now, but in a very real sense I began to experience a taste of the renewal and restoration of my soul I had been so longing for throughout this sabbatical time. The issues of my life, over which I had yearned all sabbatical to know God's perspective and wisdom on seemed a lot clearer and that gave way to a sense of peace that I hadn't experienced for some years, that God was ultimately in control and was working out His purposes.

Richard Foster in his classic book Celebration of Discipline talks of the need for all Christians to take some regular time on retreat, drawing away from the demands and distractions of life and drawing near to the presence of God in order to hear his voice. Im sure, this particular retreat was a right time, right place moment, but for those looking for a lovely, quiet, delightful retreat centre in the West Country, look no further than The Vine.

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