Morley Retreat and fellowship

I went with my fellowship group to Morley Retreat in the Derbyshire countryside today, just down the road from where I live. We were the only people there and it was so peaceful and beautiful - a crisp, bright, winter's day. The people in my fellowship are very special, diverse and interesting and very real. I am the only one in the group who isn't an ordinand but they always make me feel like I belong. The lecturer who leads the group always thanks God for our diversity when we pray and I'm set immediately at ease because we are all so different. When they share stories about experiences, they include me, make eye contact with me, fill me in on what has been going on in college on the days when I am not there.

There have been some very significant things said by students at the college which have had a real impact on me. One morning in chapel someone spoke very simply and briefly to explain that where there is opportunity, there is desire and where there is desire there is opportunity with God and this I have found hugely affirming. I feel so overwhelmed sometimes by the great privilege that it is to study there - the opportunities that seem now so natural might not have been there before, I can afford to fund myself, I own and can drive a car to get there, my husband has been able to work from home one day a week to enable me to go in for the day where all the learning counts towards my qualification. I also spend two other days there and I can fit in around the school hours. The teacher of my oldest daughter has even offered to bring the children to the college for me if ever I should need to stay late because she lives just down the road from there. I love the place and the people so much and the way it is opening my eyes and bringing me into a closer relationship with God! Why doesn't everyone want to do this? I can't imagine! And so there is opportunity and there is desire - tremendous desire.

I've been able to listen to the faith journeys of all the people in my fellowship group. It's been hugely inspiring to witness God at work in the lives of all these people. Today at Morley we spent some time in silence and out walking in the grounds. One of my friends described how he had been really hoping to encounter God in a fresh way, he had set out for the church - but to his dismay it was locked. He decided to walk around it instead and then on into the grounds and suddenly before him two birds flew across his line of vision, looped around and back towards him and then one of them landed on his chest, right there in the middle of his chest, clinging on for what must have been only a second but it was as if the moment lasted for some time, enough even to exchange glances and my friend described how in that moment it was as if God were saying you don't need to come looking for me, I'm right here all around you and I will find you. Wow - can you imagine, a small wild bird, landing in the middle of your chest - how amasing.

I enjoyed spending time - just me, my camera and the beauty of creation and once back in the warm and the chapel, I streched out on a sun-streaked wooden floor to draw an image that I had captured and it was so refreshing to be in the stillness, just being and creating and attempting something that I knew was not a strength of mine - there are many artists in my family but I am not one of them, and yet somehow I managed to replicate what I'd captured and felt pleased with my work which I will keep as a reminder of that special day.

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