My last letter was written just before my Ordination and I want to thank you for your love and support which helped bring me to that point. It was a wonderful day for me, the memory of which I will always cherish as indeed I treasure all your cards, messages and generous gifts.
When I last wrote I was about to go on pre-ordination retreat and had mixed feelings about the planned Quiet Day: apprehension at the thought of keeping an extended silence but excitement too at the hope of meeting with God in the stillness. Let me tell you about it because I think you will smile at God’s sense of humour.
The weather on the day was not conducive to spending time outside, either in the beautiful grounds of the retreat centre nor in the Malvern Hills behind it. With no really suitable place just ‘to be’ inside the centre, I and a fellow ordinand, Mary, went instead to the nearby Great Malvern Priory. What better place to find the quietness we were seeking than within the hallowed walls of what had once been a Benedictine monastery built in 1075 AD? Think of the centuries of prayer and worship that would have seeped into those stones – how easy it would be to pray in such a place…….
Imagine then, our surprise when we arrived to find it full of 500 schoolchildren! We were invited in and told to wander around freely and I admit to feeling quite at home. 25 years of working with children made it a familiar atmosphere – but not a silent one! Concerned that this was hardly what Mary had been expecting, I asked her if she’d like us to try elsewhere.
‘Sharon,’ she rebuked me, ‘do you think it’s a coincidence that we’re here today, on this one week in the entire year in which this event takes place?! God has brought us here.’
And God was there in the children’s excited chatter and in the dedication of the volunteers (all dressed as monks) engaged in various activities, bringing to life the history of the Priory and sharing something of their own faith. He was there in the faithfulness of the Great Malvern churches who had jointly supported this venture for 12 years. He was there in the shared lunch with those volunteers who of course thought it hilarious that we had come there for our Quiet Day! God was there in the songs that were sung, the parable that was enacted, the cairn we built together, the prayer stations we participated in.
One volunteer asked me the purpose of our Quiet Day and I replied, ‘To encounter God.’
‘And have you encountered Him?’ she asked.
‘Yes,’ said I.
I do still believe that it is good for each one of us to set aside quiet time and space to pray and to wait on God…….BUT……..it seems to me that God was saying,
‘I am God and I will always be there. Though life may at times be chaotic, noisy, busy and stressful, even in the midst of that, I will yet speak and you will hear me.’
I hope you find that as reassuring as I do.
May you hear God’s voice in the stillness AND in the storms of life.