As I was on my way to the ‘Every Woman: Ruth Retreat Risking It All’ I really felt quite low and battered by the ups and downs of life and ministry. I had booked to go on this retreat at Cliff College a while back now and wasn’t sure what I had let myself in for. It’s often when we slow down, pause or even stop for a while that God realigns us and draws us closer, deeper into His presence. Was I ready for this?
The retreat was being led by the Girls’ Brigade Ministries and this brought with it some happy childhood memories for me of being a member of the Girls’ Brigade in East Hull. It is also always good to spend time at Cliff College, a place that offers valued training and space to retreat.
I had never been to a ‘women only’ event before and it felt kind of strange, but it wasn’t too long before friendships were being formed.
We had a good team of women leading the retreat and guiding us in our time together over the weekend.
I remember the opening time of worship. I really felt at that time that worship was beyond me just because of where I was within myself and ministry/faith journey. In this time of worship, we were invited to reflect on what was in our hands: What or who are we carrying around with us and to this retreat, were we willing to turn our hands over and empty them into the love of God and allow God to hold them whilst we retreated together? I found this very hard to do, but this was the beginning of the retreat and the turning point too for me. I began to write:
You hold my hand Jesus,
You hold me fast.
You won’t let me go.
You hold my hand Jesus,
such love, such compassion,
come drench me.
Drench, flood my very soul.
Move slowly, don’t rush.
Mould me, shape me.
Don’t let me go,
or leave your side.
My hands so tiny,
in Yours, so big.
My hands, so perfectly formed,
in your image.
So perfect, so right,
so complex, awesome!
Just like You!
What have you got in your hands?
I started the retreat feeling that worship was beyond me but I still tried to engage with it knowing that worship should not be based on my emotions, but on my relationship with Jesus.
Throughout the weekend the delegates explored the book of Ruth together using different creative ways of bible study and reflection. We acted out the scripture, we read it out loud in the open air, we studied it and looked for glimpses of Jesus. We read it slowly and waited for key phrases or words to stand out for us. We rewrote some of the story as if we were one of the characters. We were on a journey with God and with each other.
Since the first day we were paired up to create prayer partners which became a special bonding time of the retreat. There was space for a reflective walk, space for sleep, space for time out, space most of all for God and me.
Sometimes we just needed to slow ourselves down to create space for ourselves and for God.
We were encouraged not to leave empty handed, but to look at what we had brought and decide what we needed to take back with us. I had taken with me the challenges of two particular churches I serve that were about to apply for a cease to worship. I had taken with me my family, all the churches, staff and homegroups in the circuit.
I brought back hope, vision and God. I ended the retreat in a better place in my worship and faith journey.
Without the encouragement and provision of finance through the circuit and district DAF grant I wouldn’t have had this opportunity, so I am grateful to both.
Rev Debbie Keegan
Sherwood Forest Methodist Circuit