Peace, companionship and fellowship

Published on 19 Apr 2018
Christ carrying his cross, two women standing by

Laurene MacKenzie reflects on the experience of leading two different groups during the Ignatian Spirituality Centre Lent Retreat 2018 

During Lent 2018, the Ignatian Spirituality Centre Glasgow trialled an Online Lent Retreat which included weekly meetings for participants in groups around Scotland. Materials were accessed online and for those without internet access, printed sheets were made available through their groups. The materials included daily scripture, poetry and prose, paintings, and ideas for reflection. There was also guidance about different types of prayer which was more fully explored at the meetings. As one of the local group facilitators, I was both elated at the thought of the retreat reaching hundreds of people around the country and worried – would anyone show up at my weekly meetings?

As it turned out, participation both online and at the weekly group meetings exceeded all expectations.  700 people registered, there were 500 logins every day and around 70 groups met around Scotland and beyond. And the reach of the retreat went far beyond the country's borders with 12 groups meeting in England, and other groups in the U.S.A, New Zealand, Ireland, Singapore, the Philippines and Jordan.

I facilitated a small evening group of working people and a large daytime group of retirees mostly in their 70's and 80's. Everyone was new to contemplative prayer. The material was flexible enough for some people to log on every day and explore the material in depth while others preferred to follow using a printed weekly sheet. I found no difference in the levels of enthusiasm between the two groups. Participants repeatedly told me of the wonder and gratitude they felt engaging particularly in stilling prayer, which was a new experience for them. They also very much appreciated being introduced to a variety of prayer methods they had not encountered before – Lectio Divina, mantras, imaginative contemplation, the examen, paying attention to joys and consolation. They also got much benefit from being able to share their experiences at the weekly meetings.

At the end of Lent, many people fed back that they intended to continue praying in these ways and would try to be more reflective, helpful and considerate of others. Quotes from feedback include:

  • I enjoyed the peace and the companionship and fellowship at the meetings
  • I enjoyed the chance to be still and meditate
  • I especially liked viewing and reacting to the display of evocative pictures [from a session on visio divina]
  • As a result of the retreat I am going to use the different ways of praying
  • This has strengthened my beliefs and I am going to be more helpful in any way I can.

Over the course of the meetings, I saw a real hunger in people to experience God more fully in their lives. This Online Retreat with weekly meetings certainly began the process of meeting that need.

Laurene MacKenzie

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