As we travelled down the winding roads through the beautiful Kent countryside we were pleased to see that the earlier drizzle had ceased. My wife and I were delighted to be giving a lift to Mary Compton who had done most to organise the day of 'retreat', reflection on our Christian values, socialising and relaxation.

Burrswood is a large country house set in a beautiful country park. It has been converted for use for many years as a Christian Hospital. I believe that it is now more of a respite home with provision for individual or group retreats, 'Wellbeing' / spiritual activities and arts and crafts courses.

St.Giles' one day retreat was based in a small modern conference room with chairs facing inwards in an oval and next to a small room where food and drink was provided. This opens on to a terrace overlooking the gardens. On arrival we all gathered, with a sense of eager expectation, in the entrance hall to sign in. There was an immediate upset when one of our number found themselves locked in a lavatory. The anxious faces soon turned to smiles as the 'prisoner' was released by a caretaker. In the relaxation I am sure I heard the song “Oh dear, what can the matter be" being hummed.

Our base was soon filled and Matthew Hughes settled us into a session of meditation based on a reading from St. Luke's Gospel, Chapter 5 - verses 1 - 11. Our minds were gently focussed and the passage read aloud. Jesus is in a fishing boat with Simon. He tells Simon to let down his nets for a catch. The reply is that he had been fishing all night and caught nothing. However, he would do as Jesus said. The result is "a big haul of fish and their nets began to split." Simon was shocked by this but Jesus says "Do not be afraid......from now on you will be catching men.”

After a busy start to the day I found it difficult to focus my mind immediately. I was helped by a tree outside the opposite window. It had a very old thick trunk which was almost horizontal. From this smaller branches were reaching up towards the sky. I felt that my mind began to do the same thing. After the time of focus Matthew asked us to comment and share our thoughts.

After tea and coffee we had a time to ourselves and many of us strolled around the beautiful grounds with greensward which swooped down past ornamental ponds and budding woods sheltering spring flowers. Others visited the lovely chapel. There was a chance to talk with those who one had not met before, probably because we attended different services. One small group returned full of enthusiasm after discovering a newly born lamb.

The interval was followed by an absorbing second session of meditation - how quickly the time seemed to pass. The lunch provided was a variety of different sandwiches and fruit etc.. Again there was an opportunity for further wandering, contemplation or visiting the various lounges with lovely views or the two shops, one for religious books and cards.

In the early afternoon one could join a gentle group stroll for about a mile or remain on the main site and relax. Most people seemed to take the walk, including one person at the great age of 90. It was around the border of a steep hill and on the way there was a small waterfall tumbling into a large spring filled pond. The water had a beautiful clarity before it rushed down to supply the woodland below. Somehow this seemed to reflect the religious feelings of the day.

Back in Burrswood Matthew took a communion service. We sang two unaccompanied hymns which sounded extremely good. All too soon it was time to pack up and say farewell. My wife and I felt and we are sure that most of the others felt: relaxed, refreshed and inspired by the things we had seen and heard from everyone that day.

Thank you Matthew and Mary - We are looking forward to the next 'retreat' - can we put our names down now?!

Julian Milton