The hospitality of God's silence

Twenty five of us spent two nights at the Chigwell Convent in Essex at the weekend. We were there for The Big Silence, a retreat in which we'd spend 24 hours in complete silence. No phones. No TV. No chit chat.

Martine Oborne from St Mary's and Polly Arthur from Christchurch, Highbury, led us in a wonderfully gracious and generous way. We were given suggestions as to how to use the time that was available to us but all through the weekend we were able to participate in the way that was just right for us.

On Sunday morning, we broke our silence and had the opportunity to share together what we had experienced. It was immediately clear that people had encountered God in a remarkably powerful way, and would leave Chigwell with a new appreciation of God's encouragement.

It wasn't surprising that sharing silence together felt a bit odd to begin with. But people described how the initial awkwardness quickly changed into a special kind of quietness. It became quite alright to share the gardens and the convent spaces with others who were being still. In fact, as the pressure to exchange small talk disappeared we drew closer to each other.

The response was so overwhelmingly positive that we're already making plans for another retreat in Lent 2012.