Diocesan Retreat

Argyll and The Isles Diocesan Retreat 2012 – Hope in Small Things


The diocesan retreat gathered in the College of the Holy Spirit in Millport, on the Isle of Cumbrae, and was led in the annual silent retreat by the Reverend Canon Ann Dyer, Rector of Haddington. Ann is also a very experienced and internationally renowned theological educator and spiritual director.

The delegates entered silence after a chatty and welcoming meal on the first evening, remaining in silence for 48 hours. Ann drew the retreat together with a series of addresses on the theme of ‘Small Things,’ each address using passages from scripture and a series of fine art images to draw the delegates into their reflections.

Ann used a massive range of material, with poetry, music and art from Vermeer to Van Gogh to the contemporary work of Scots artist John Bellany. The skill of the artist in drawing meaning and fine detail into a work matches the fine detail of God’s purposes and actions in our own lives and in the lives of the Christian communities in which we live and serve. The placing of details, the rich theology of the old masters, the raw energy of contemporary art, all these can help the spiritual enquirer in making sense of their own humanity and their relationship with God. The theme of ‘Small Things’ drew the group into the detail of the paintings, looking at expressions, gestures, the details hidden in background.

Through her reflections, Ann brought a sense of hope for even the small most humble church community. In a geographical area like Argyll and The Isles, there are so many small, faithful communities scattered over the wilderness, each carrying on the Episcopalian tradition in their own setting. It is easy for people to start to feel burdened or barren or hopeless. From the seven addresses given over the retreat, one example was based around the parables of the mustard seed and the sower. These agricultural parables remind all that there are seasons whilst seeds of faith, generously scattered by God, rest in the cold ground. Winter is even necessary to allow literal seeds to flourish, to clean away diseases and create the right conditions for growth. This may well be followed by harvests, quite possibly for completely different people, many years later. The seeds of faith and church that we sow we may never see come to fruition, just as those who planted this avenue of lime trees at the cathedral (attached picture) never got to see them in their glorious 2012 autumn maturity

The setting of the Cathedral of The Isles and the College of the Holy Spirit was wonderful for these days of spiritual reflection and peace. The staff provided wholesome meals and a warm welcome for the silent group, and the pattern of daily worship held in the cathedral was a time of stillness, peace and closeness to God, from Morning Prayer through to Compline last thing at night.

The retreat is held annually in October, with limited spaces available. If you would like to know more or to enquire about attending next year (and confidential financial help is available from the diocese for anyone who wishes to attend) please contact the Office in Oban for more informati

A Swift, October 2012