Back to Whalley

Wind back nearly three years, and I was away with Clergy Chapter (group of local vicars) at Whalley Abbey just as the PM announced that lockdown was coming. It was useful to be together as we thought through the implications of this, but the next day, the retreat centre pretty much locked the doors behind us as we went.

Lockdown happened, obviously, and it wasn’t until 2022 that another Clergy Chapter overnight tool place. By this point, I was serving in another deanery and I did have a serious case of FOMO as they all gathered at Rydall (another retreat centre) last year.

Anyway, now I’m back in Sefton North and this year, the Chapter returned to Whalley Abbey. We were there Monday-Tuesday this week and it was splendid.

Coffee upon arrival

Whalley Abbey is in the town of Whalley, which is very cute and has a few pubs and independent shops to mooch in. The Abbey has all I could ask for in a retreat house. Tasty food, a kind welcome, beautiful views, comfy beds, an honesty bar, great coffee, space to be and a chapel which is so warm, inviting and holy.

The Chapel

It truly felt like time up the mountain before the long, beautiful slog that is Lent and Easter.

I was struck by one particular hanging in the chapel which encapsulated what it felt like to be away at Whalley. You can see it below.

Often, in the busy-ness of ministry and family life, with so many demands on my time, space to connect to God can be hard to find. Even with prayer time deliberately calved out, thoughts about that email I need to send, was yesterday’s sermon ok, who to visit next, will I give them Sophia’s latest cold, what was the code for the photocopier again, who shall I ask to be church warden next, I wonder how The Good Shepherd are getting along, what’s for tea, I really need to do a Morrisons order, back to ministry, back to prayer, FOCUS POPPY come knocking.

But it wasn’t like that at Whalley, and it’s not like that in the picture above. There was a stillness, a clarity, a peace, a sense of God’s presence. My ability to find a stillness within hugely increased. It seems to me that the figure in the picture feels like that. There’s nothing flitting around in the background. The way upwards is clear, and the way downwards is clear.

The company this week was, of course, excellent. But I’m looking forward to going back on my own for more space and time to dwell with my Heavenly Father. I think I have found a special place to be.

Drinking coffee and knitting with a view.