Called to care
I have spent much of the past week at the beautiful Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Selly Oak, Birmingham, leading times of retreat for chaplains in MHA homes around the UK. The week was ingeniously structured for three groups, each of about 30 chaplains, to spend 24 hours on retreat, with some cross-over time between each group to enable them to meet up with others, renew friendships and make new ones.
The theme for the retreat was “Pilgrimage” and we looked together at what a “pilgrim attitude” might have to offer to us in our own journey of life. The challenge for me was repeating my sessions three times with different groups, and not getting confused about what I had said to whom! If I began to feel I was going round in circles, that could be lived out in the grass labyrinth in the grounds of Woodbrooke where I was glad to walk and think or pray or just to walk.
I based some thinking around the seven words I have used as a daily focus on the walking pilgrimages to Lindisfarne; Encounter, Attentiveness, Courage, Timing, Rhythm, Horizons and Rest – any of which could be explored in more depth. In our times of quiet response, various art materials were available and some lovely paintings produced, including this one which cleverly brings those words together into a journey.
The blessings for me were many, but above all, a wonderful sense of being with a group of people who knew God’s call upon their lives and were glad to have responded. Time and time again, without any prompting from me, people told me they had found their niche, or that the work fitted like a glove, or simply that they loved their job. Of course this vital role brings many challenges and demands and these were not glossed over as people shared their stories and recognised their need for refreshment along the way, but my overall impression was of a wonderful band of saints who have indeed been called to care and who are answering that call day in, day out.
For me too it was especially significant to have amongst one of the groups the chaplain who had been such a friend to my mother in her last few years in the MHA in Wolverhampton and to be able to thank all the retreatants for being there, offering friendship in places where it makes so much difference. As a Methodist Church we are blessed to count MHA as part of the family – I commend their work to all our prayers. Jill