Thursday, August 28, 2008

Quiet Days at Home

One or two people have asked me about these with a view to setting up something elsewhere. Delighted to share the franchise. Here's how it works in Nailsea.

I am fortunate to live in a large, comfortable house in a quiet area.

I advertise through local churches that I will be holding quiet days, usually about nine a year. I don't do them when church life gets hectic which means missing December and April. I try to do them in blocks of three successive months but it doesn't always work out like that.

I place a maximum of 12 on participants. This is because, if it is wet, there is room in my house for about 12 people to find a bit of space. I make two bedrooms available by leaving the doors open and ask people to close the door when they are using it.

Quiet Days have evolved into a more ecumenical thing than I expected. Today I had ten guests from two Anglican churches, two free churches and one non-church member with whom I have spoken about whether we are her church. We may be. We are certainly her Christian supportive community.

The programme is simple:

1000 Coffee and welcome
1030 Bible study, sharing expectations, house rules
1115 Quiet for reading, praying, walking
1300 Simple lunch (not in silence). Soup and bread in winter; salad in summer
1400 Bible study 2 (shorter) and sharing
1430 Quiet slot 2
1530 Tea and chat

I put on some music at the end of the quiet periods and during food and drinks. I tell people when my next appointment is so they know if they can stay and talk to me.

When I started I decided we would read through Mark's gospel, a chapter at a time, not with full exposition but dipping in from time to time with thoughts. I don't do much more preparation than reading the passage and a commentary, but I chose Mark because I know it best of the Gospels. Today we read Mark 14.

At first I spoke a lot in the studies but now we have a lot of inter-action. If I throw out a textual question for consideration normally someone will read a commentary and report back.

There is no set liturgy, singing or open prayer. I leave a pile of devotional books, various Bible translations and commentaries on the dining table. I keep quiet myself but tell people where they can find me if they want to talk to someone. Today I fell asleep after lunch, which tells you how relaxed it is.

Quiet day would be cancelled if there was only one other participant and they were female. People understand this.

I try to make sure each year has one or two at half-term or school holidays for the benefit of teachers.

Ask me to say more about anything unclear.


Chris said...

I'm sure you mean it ends at 15:30?

St said...

Yes Chris. Thanks. I've changed the typo.

Anonymous said...

Feedback from a participant.
I am a teacher and have attended 3 quiet days, 1 last year and 2 this summer. I lead a very busy life and find it very hard to be quiet and still. When I try to do it by myself in my own home I either get distracted or just can't keep it up for very long. Doing it with other people not only 'forces' me to be quiet but also makes it easier.
I usually bring my bible, a sketchbook and pencil, a notebook and my i pod. I start by listening through my headphones to some quiet instrumental choruses for about 10 minutes as a way of tuning my mind into receiving from God. I doodle in my sketchbook, draw and write down things that come to mind. Looking back at these is a very powerful way of keeping in touch with what I believe God wants to tell me. In July I also spent some time in the garden just looking closely at God's creation.
In quiet day 1 I came with no agenda and just listened to God which was great.
In quiet day 2 I very much needed to slow down and relax as I'd just broken up from school. That day was a real turning point for me in being able to make the most of my holiday.
Yesterday I was grappling with what I needed to do to survive the next school year with new responsibilities and too many demands on my time. I've come away with a list of principles. Now I've just got to stick with them.
All three days very sucessful for me in different ways.
The added bonus is spending time with friends and getting to know people I know but never chat with and new people from other churches.
This is just one person's perspective but I hope it helps build up a picture.

St said...

Thanks Pauline.

david said...

As another participant (just the once when I had an odd day's holiday due that needed to be taken quickly), I would like to add to the previous comment. I too found it a great way of slowing down, with no pressure to stick to a particular agenda. The short bible studies were also very relaxed with nobody feeling pressurised to contribute if they didn't want to. As st said, the (unexpected?) ecumenical nature meant that lunch gave the opportunity for fellowship outside of one's usual church cicle. If any one has ever thought of going, but is not sure, I would say take the plunge! I think st has come up with a great format.
Incidentally, I'm just off to Bardsey island for a week full of quiet days - no electricity, hot water, newspapers, TV or internet and patchy mobile reception. Just 30 people and thousands of Manx Shearwaters.

Matt Wardman said...

>When I try to do it by myself in my own home

Why not borrow somebody else's home who is out at work - or even borrow somebody else's church on a weekday?

Is the "Quiet Garden Movement" still around?

Matt Wardman