Thursday 3 July 2014

Ordination Retreats and Their Wildlife

I'd presumed it was all about the stereotypical people you get on retreats.  Instead of which Rachel has shared with us some photos - lovely as they are - of actual wildlife. Barely satirical at all if you ask me.  But lovely.

So I've had to fill the gaps in here. Hnaef is, as we have previously discovered, a closet Anglican and quite posh. So he knows quite a lot of people who have been to ordination retreats. And, by asking around for me, he's managed to identify the following ordination retreat wildlife.

People who went to College

There are two basic divisions to the Retreat Wildlife. Those who went to College (full time) and those who were on a (part time) Course. People who went to College tend to be younger. They talk about things like "Staggers", which I believe is the sheep equivalent of Mad Cow Disease. And they're called things like "Maud" or "Camilla". Though I couldn't find out what the women's names are.

People who were on a Course

Can't see a pebble without meditating on it. Gather fallen twigs in the Retreat House gardens to build impromptu prayer stations. Sing "I the Lord of Sea and Sky" at all opportunities.

But then there are many subdivisions.....

People who Can't Stand Silence

Not necessarily just extroverts. There are actually more introverts who just love background noise.  Blocks out the voices. Extroverts will cope with silence by indulging in giant charades to tell everyone how happy they are to be silent. Many have learnt British Sign Language for just this kind of occasion. Or even semaphore. There's nothing like having two bloody great flags to say "I'm eschewing all forms of communication. And I'm an extrovert! LOL!" 

It's actually the introverts that really hate this kind of thing. They'll be off, at the first hint of silence, on 20-mile bike rides or all-day walks. On days with bad weather they'll pace the corridors / cloisters in quiet desperation. If there's a motorway handy, they'll stand on a bridge nearby, just to get some kind of noise in their ears.

The SSM IT Person

The SSM (self-supporting minister, not.... you know....) will inevitably have a key system going live. They've been let out for the retreat on the strict condition that they bring their lap top and keep in touch. If at a rural Retreat House, they can be seen on the horizon, roaming the hills and trying to get a signal. At the end of the week, they'll discover people have started calling them "Father"/"Reverend"/"Archdruid" and will wonder how that happened.

The Sleeper

Could be a young parent, or an SSM candidate, or just idle. No fear of "silent times" at all. Will just head back to bed. If in the first two categories, this will be the first week they've averaged 8 hours sleep per day in years.

The Soul's Awakening

What they're all supposed to be like, I suspect. Either so amazed with the amazement of the amazing thing to happen to them that they will soak up every amazing moment and treasure it, amazed, in their hearts. Or so terrified by what's happening they can barely speak.

The Person Who's Ill

You don't get twenty middle-aged people together for a week without one of them being ill. Could range from mild lurgy, to nervous exhaustion, to swine flu to - in really bad cases -"The Staggers". This gives everyone else the chance to pray for them to get there / get better / make it through the ordination service. Which is, in a way, a Good Thing.

The Blokes

Believe it or not some people being ordained are bona fide red-blooded Blokes. I don't mean Lads. They won't be trying to chat up the waitresses at dinner. But they will be the ones, at the end of Compline when the Great Silence starts, using Boozers' Sign Language to communicate something like this:

"Quick couple?"

"Elephant and Castle?"

"No, Roger is already at the Giddy Sheep."

"OK. Pint of Old Bloodnock?"

"Oh go on then."

The Super-Spiritual

So keen on spiritual delights that, as well as the set worship of the Retreat, they will also be found in the Retreat House"s daily services (in rural areas) or at the cathedral at all hours (in retreats in cities). I suspect all this prayer will come in handy when, a few weeks later, they're removing dead pigeons from the organ pipes or dealing with a couple who want a "christening for little Stefaneigh, but not anything religious". In fact I'm sure it will help. I just don't understand how.

The Person Who's Not Thought the Whole Thing Through this last 5 years

Will be found, on the morning of the ordination, wearing a clerical collar, looking at themselves in a mirror, and swearing freely.


  1. As 'the person who's ill' and the germ of your wonderful re-creation of my retreat, I wish to thank you - you've made my (sickly) week.

    Of course, I should have mentioned my first sight on exiting my room on ordination morning - the dregs of a bottle of raspberry gin which I had made, taken one small medicinal drink from, and left for my partying peer group early the evening before! There had presumably been some wild life in the intervening hours ;-)

  2. This brought back some memories, including that of the poor woman who was in bed with flu for most of our ordination retreat for priesthood. We managed to get her there in the end....

  3. yep, me and Carl making 'pub' signals as evening prayer finished and we headed to the bar which was the only 'non-silent' space until morning

  4. And the game of silent croquet … silent until I belted the spherical thing through the metal oblongy thing and screamed ‘GOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLLL.’ Or, the two SSM candidates (yep, I'm one of them) who hid the DDO’s breakfast cutlery while she’s off looking for the brown sauce … Not wise, fellas. And the same two again, who can’t be bothered to walk back to the retreat house, break their silence and cadge a lift back from a driver who was lost … Yep, I’ll miss ordination retreats.

  5. Isn't that last category the one meta-category we were ALL in?

    1. I do believe there are those who have secretly been wearing dog collars for months before they get to this stage.


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