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Immanuel and St Andrew

The Parish Church of Immanuel and St Andrew, Streatham

452 Streatham High Road · London · SW16 3PY  ·  Tel: (020) 8679 6888

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Immanuel and St Andrew's Retreat
Wychcroft House 11th - 13th February 2005.

Entitled “Beside Still Waters”, the Retreat followed a theme of drawing near to God and getting to know him better. There was also a linked theme of hospitality and welcome - and the two ideas came together in the story of Abraham entertaining the divine visitors in Genesis 18:1-15 which was read at our opening service of welcome and again at the Eucharist on the Sunday.

Led by husband and wife team Liz Dowler and Tony Phelan, who are members of the Iona Community, the programme included a lot of singing, particularly of songs produced or collected by the Community – all unaccompanied and many of them in harmony! Some of the group would never have though they could do it! Iona songs often have an international flavour – people come to Iona from all around the world.

The retreat opened with a welcome and introductory session on the Friday evening followed by a service of welcome, Iona-style. On the Saturday there were three main sessions ‘Experiencing Prayer’, ‘Finding the place where God is’ and ‘Picturing God’, with a ‘Big Sing’ in the evening, at which we learnt a number of new worship songs. The afternoon was left free – many went for a walk. On the Sunday, following the Eucharist, there was a final session, ‘Where do we go from here?’

Session 1 – Experiencing Prayer

We thought about our own experiences of prayer – right from the time we first learnt to pray. For some, prayer was still “stuck” in the childhood experience. Most found prayer difficult.

We thought of other possible ways to pray – such a simply being still in God’s presence, relaxing, letting the various thoughts and feelings we experienced be a part of prayer rather than a distraction form it.

We looked at this prayer of Charles de Foucault, a former soldier who, after his conversion, lived as a hermit in southern Algeria, working as a pioneer of dialogue with Muslims, until his martyrdom in 1916.

I abandon myself into your hands.

Do with me what you will.

Whatever you may do, I thank you.
I am ready for all, accept all.
Only let me work with you
to build up the Kingdom of God.
I wish no more than this.

Into your hands I commend my soul.
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you,
and so I need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence
because you love me.

Charles de Foucault (1858-1916)

We thought about the experience of praying the prayer. It is a prayer that many would find difficult to make with sincerity – the commitment is so total. Some may feel they could not say it at all. We then tried to imagine saying it, not to God, but to a close friend. Is there anyone we felt we could say this to? Finally we thought of it being said, not by us, but to us, by Jesus. This was a new idea, bizarre at first – perhaps potentially blasphemous – but it lead us to think, not just about our level of commitment to him, but the amazing commitment he makes to us. Jesus, so far as we know, never said those words – but they give us some feel for what he was effectively saying when he died for us on the cross.

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Session 2 – Finding the place where God is

We were asked to work in small groups to describe our parish and our church, and then to think of places and things in parish and church which somehow spoke to us of God or indicated his presence or activity.

Finally we went to the chapel and followed a brief liturgy as we looked at the various items there, such as the font, the altar and the cross, and let them remind us of God’s presence – while holding in our minds the same items back in our own church. The liturgy is reproduced below.

In the afternoon, if we went for a walk, we were asked to bring back anything (small!) that spoke to us of God.

Photo of members of the group on the afternoon walk (N1462a.jpg) Photo of a rainbow near Wychcroft House (N1467a.jpg)
On the left, members of the group out for a walk on the Saturday afternoon. One sign that spoke of God which could not be brought back was the rainbow God 'set in the clouds' (Genesis 9:13) as we walked - a few minutes after the previous picture was taken. Another was the chapel at nearby South Park farm, pictured below - again, a chapel made by converting a barn - which was the destination of some of the walkers.
Photo of chapel at South Park (inside) (N1481a.jpg) Photo of chapel at South Park (outside) (N1498a.jpg)

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Session 3 – Picturing God

Photo of members of the group in the lounge at Wychcroft House (N1522b.jpg)
The picture was taken as the group assembled in the lounge for the session - with items collected on the walk in the foreground.

We looked at the items brought back – things that were natural and attractive, such as berries, leaves, sheep’s wool and soft springy moss, representing the good things about God’s created world. We went on to explore the idea of representing God, Jesus and the saints in pictures to help us and inspire us in prayer and worship, not forgetting the issue of idolatry that this raised. We looked at some historic icons of Jesus and the saints, mainly from the middle ages.

We then tried to think about ways God might be represented in what we might find in our parish – including less attractive things like the Streatham High Road! We made collages of pictures and items from magazines which we felt somehow spoke to us of God or represented his activity or existence in the world in which we live – the world more familiar to us today. We found there was much to remind us of God – some of it rather unexpected and not all of it attractive!

The collages and historic icons were put up in the chapel for us to look at and use that evening and on the Sunday morning at Communion.

 

Photo of members of the group in the the chapel(N1542a.jpg)

Members of the group examine the 'natural items' in the chapel. Tony Phelan and Liz Dowler are second and third from the left in the foreground group.

 

Photo of collages and icons on the chapel wall. (N1556a.jpg)

Collages and icons on the chapel wall.

See more....

 

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Session 4 – Where do we go from here?

Group members agreed there was much to take away and use in the future – although some of it was personal, to help us in our own personal walk with God. We used post-it notes which we attached to a board to share some of the things we had learned and experienced, and things we thought could be taken away and used in the future.

We had learned and experienced:

We wanted to take away:

'Sent by the Lord am I' - A song from Chile - one of the songs we learned.

Sent by the Lord am I;
my hands are ready now
to make the earth the place
in which the kingdom comes.
Sent by the Lord am I;
my hands are ready now
to make the earth the place
in which the kingdom comes.

The angels cannot change
a world of hurt and pain
into a world of love,
of justice and of peace.
The task is mine to do,
to set it really free.
Oh, help me to obey;
help me to do your will.

Source unknown, believed to be public domain.

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A little liturgy for a quiet meditative walk round a church

At the door.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you'. When he had said this he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

Remember what is outside the walls... the walls of your church, perhaps the walls of home; what is beyond notice or attention or care:
Who are we shutting out?
Christ, if you come in the stranger's guise, gives us eyes to recognize you
And courage to welcome you.

Lift up your heads o gates
And be lifted up, o everlasting doors
And the King of Glory shall come in

So Jesus said to them again, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. ... I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
Jesus, open the way for us to find the place where you await us with gifts of life.

Lift up your heads o gates
And be lifted up, o everlasting doors
And the King of Glory shall come in

The Font

Remember the font at home: the families who bring children to baptism; recall your own baptism: if you were baptized as a baby, remember the people who have helped you on your Christian journey – confirmation, communion; leaders; friends.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all people. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things...

[The baptismal prayer for the water of the font - a version from Christian Aid:]

Jesus, out of love for us
you were baptized in the River Jordan.
We thank you for the gift of water
to cleanse us and revive us.
We thank you
that through the waters of the Red Sea
you led your people out of slavery
to freedom in the promised land.

We thank you
that you passed through the deep waters of death
and rose again in triumph.

Have mercy on us
who seek profit from the water you offer so freely.
Confront us
who turn the sacrament of liberation
into the material of oppression.
And as water flows from your side on the cross
pierce our consciences
and convert us again to your ways.
Amen.

The lectern

What are your memories of bible stories from when you were little: Sunday School? At home?

Jesus says: You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

Forgive us if your church has used the bible as a weapon, to beat down opponents.
Forgive us when we close our eyes and our hearts to your invitation; help us to trust your spirit and to hear your words.

Remember those whose devotion is different - to the Holy Koran, the Gita, the Pali Canon:

St Paul says: the letter kills, but the spirit gives life

For the word of God in scripture
For the word of God within us
For the word of God among us

Thanks be to God.

The altar table

Jesus says: Wherever two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst.
Where does God draw you into communion, with Himself – with others?
Where are you affirmed in sharing?

How could you explain the Mystery of the Eucharist?

Ordinary things, Bread and Wine, are sanctified, O Lord, to be the nourishment for our journey: help us to see that every day and everywhere you offer us sacraments of kindness, friendship, even self-sacrifice to cheer and enlighten us.

The Cross

Even if you have never done it before, make the sign of the cross +.

Lord help us to acknowledge your cross wherever we see the suffering of the world; and when there is pain for us, help us to know with St Paul that we are somehow experiencing and completing in ourselves the Passion of Jesus.
And help us to know that this is where resurrection begins.


The Retreat Leaders

Liz Dowler teaches at the University of Warwick – she is particularly interested in the politics of food and poverty in Britain. She has had lots of experience as a facilitator for workshops of many different kinds, including one on ‘Being a Church’! Liz is an Associate Member of the Iona Community.

Tony Phelan teaches German at Keble College, in Oxford, where they live. He has a Bishop’s authorisation to preach at their parish church, St Michael and All Angels, and he is a Member of the Iona Community, particularly keen to get people singing new songs!

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Page last updated 17 August 2006.

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© Copyright David Gray and PCC of Immanuel and St. Andrew Streatham 2005. Photographs copyright David Gray 2002/5 except where otherwise stated.

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Links to related pages...

May we help you?

Collages and icons

(See Session 3.)


Photo of Wychcroft House (N1438a.jpg)
Wychcroft House, near Godstone in Surrey - the Southwark Diocesan Training Centre.

Photo of the chapel beside Wychcroft House (N1439a.jpg)
The building with the balcony to the right of the house was formerly a barn and is now the chapel.

Photo of the interior of the chapel at Wychcroft House (N1561a.jpg)
Inside the chapel. The Candle arrangement in the centre and some other displays were specially created for the Retreat.

Photo of members of the group at the evening meal at Wychcroft House (N1531a.jpg)
At the evening meal.


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