“Be still, and know that I am God!”

Psalm 46:10


Kelly*, a parish minister, came on a personal retreat to the Bield.  She’d had a torrid time in her parish and was exhausted, her confidence at a really low ebb.  The day she arrived we met for spiritual accompaniment.  She tried to share her story but mostly she just wept.  Sometimes there are no words.  By the end of her retreat, she was unrecognisable from the woman who had arrived.  Time to rest, read, pray, journal, walk, swim, and sit in silence soothed and comforted her soul.  The gift of being listened to deeply; having a space in which she felt safe enough to show her raw emotion, to tease things out and talk things through; the acceptance and love she experienced from the retreat centre team; the joy (and surprise!) of expressing herself creatively through art; and the gentleness and beauty of nature offered her insights and healing she was both delighted by and grateful for.  Yes, she still has challenges to face in her parish, but she left feeling relaxed and re-energised.


“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.”

Psalm 23

Pilgrimage comes in different guises, outer and inner, and both at the same time.  We may not immediately think of going on a personal retreat as pilgrimage, but it is.  It’s an inner journey, one that invites us to step back from serving others for a few days and to tend to our own spiritual wellbeing.  On retreat we have time to pause and wonder about our life, our calling, and the spiritual connections we’re making, as well time to rest and be nurtured.  We may choose to have a companion on the road, meeting with a spiritual accompanier.  Spiritual accompaniment has often been called “holy listening”.  It’s a beautiful space in which we can be heard and hear ourselves, be gifted with greater clarity and insight, and grow in trusting our own desires, instincts, feelings, and body’s wisdom as sacred, accompanied by someone who listens compassionately and empathetically.

In lives that are busy and full, in an era of noise and distraction, in a world which is broken and hurting, going on a personal retreat has never been more important.  The Psalmist knew this, encouraging us to be still and offering to restore our souls.  Taking time to attend to our inner landscape, to listen for the sacred whispers, to open to Divine nurture, and to gather our energy so we can go back into our daily lives empowered for the work we are called to – these are the stuff of retreats and of inner pilgrimage.

So why not take up your retreat allowance and book a personal retreat this year?  Why not go on a pilgrimage of the soul?  And if you do, may you drink deeply at God’s still waters.


When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief.  I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light.  For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

*Not real name



Rev Dr Valerie Allen

Bield at Blackruthven retreat centre, Pastoral Team