By Fiona Gardner, Victoria Regional Meeting.
The Meeting for Learning Retreat offers Friends a year-long program with a week retreat at the beginning and end of the year. The program provides a structure within which Friends can explore and nurture their own spiritual journey, supported and enabled by each other and the facilitators.
This year the retreat week is in Hobart from Monday to Sunday, 12 — 18 September at the Maryknoll Retreat Centre at Blackman’s Bay.
Felicity Rose is half way through her year-long program, a good place to reflect:
The retreat week opened up the idea of ‘listening into being’ to me in a gentle, inspiring and loving way.
The rhythm of days of the retreat week was just right. We practised deep listening in small groups, had periods of worship,
discussion, time to relax, reflect, rest, walk on the beach and socialise.
By the time we left, we were well versed in ways to make our year between retreats a ‘growthful’ experience, and I was keen to keep the Meeting for Learning thread going. Each of us chose one of the facilitators to help us with any problems that might come up.
Many people have asked me about the one-to-four ‘projects’ we are asked to do during the year. At first, I interpreted this
in a practical way and decided to clear out old ‘stuff’ from my work area (to clarify for myself that I really have retired) and do a University of the Third Age course. Over the silent day in the middle of the retreat week these began to look more like New Year’s resolutions than what I wanted to take forward from my retreat.
I decided that it seemed more like a focus than a project: I am working towards being able to articulate why I am a Quaker and how I live it. Two off-shoot themes are to learn more of Quaker history and thought and to find the ways that this will inform my living the Quaker way in our community — the theme of the second retreat this September.
We were asked to form a support group; three to six people were suggested, to meet once a month for the year. Members of this group listen closely to what the participant is moved to share out of a preliminary silence. Participants lay down guidelines for whatever they feel will work best for them. I am most comfortable with a meeting of about one hour where, after a brief ‘hello’, we go into silence. When what I want to share has taken shape, I speak. After this, we resume our silence then usually I invite the group to ask questions or make comments. Each contribution is followed by silence, which may prompt me to share again, and so on. I don’t allow the gathering to become a discussion or a ‘fix-it’ session. I am finding it really moving and affirming to be listened to in this way, it is a great privilege.
One difficulty in having a group that can actually meet once a month is our busy lives; most of us go away quite often. At first, I (shyly) limited my group to two. By January, they were both away so I didn’t have a meeting. Now I have two more people in my group so for the next six months I should be able to have a meeting. I am very moved by the way people respond so generously.
For more details of the Meeting for Learning retreat, including costs, contact David Barry on email David.Barry.TLUD (at) gmail.com or telephone 0425 29 2288.
To explore your interest in Meeting for Learning, contact Fiona Gardner, coordinator for the facilitators: f.gardner (at) latrobe.edu.au or 03 54469951.
If you would like to read more from participants, more stories are on the Quaker Learning Australia website, http://www.qla.quakers.org.au.