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General Retreat 2019

Account by Rebecca Blakey

The motto for the Weave’s General Retreat 2019 came from Hosea 6:6: For faithful love is what pleases me, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not burnt offerings. The verse was aptly chosen for a retreat in which we were encouraged to affirm and celebrate our identity as God’s children, in fellowship with one another. We did this by opening ourselves to God’s Word, by endeavouring to listen to and address one another with kindness, and by saying ‘yes’, to whatever the weekend required of us, whether it be serving, brainstorming on the activities of the Weave, or even Scottish Ceilidh dancing!

Many things stood out from this weekend which are worth noting and pondering prayerfully. The retreat strengthened our awareness of the power of Lectio and Lectio groups to change lives. It was an occasion of recognising the Spirit at work in the members of the Weave community – growing it into something that is ‘more than the Manquehue translated’. Through this weekend we manifested God’s glory, not only through our prayer and celebrations, but through growing as a community by practising listening and working creatively together to build, in what small ways we can, God’s Kingdom.

Prayer, forming the heart of the General Retreat, putting all other activities in gentle rhythm, included not only the sung office, but a moment of adoration, a communal Celebration of the Word on Sunday in which everyone shared a final echo, and a Saturday morning scrutinising session motivated by Frances. Her quiet voice, ringing with love and conviction, resounded across the silent room and held us in rapt attention as she gently extolled God’s love and the power of his Word. Again and again, her words, spoken with the intimacy of a friend, washed over us, hitting us with compelling force, inviting us to surrender and abandonment. By the end, Christ had taken his place firmly in the centre of the room and of the weekend.

The unifying power of those moments of prayer reflected a sense of unity in difference witnessed to in the range of backgrounds of the retreat attendees. Neither of the two young men who shared their testimonies had encountered the Manquehue Movement first-hand, but had found in their local-run lectio groups (in Bristol and Liverpool respectively) a source of light and life in difficult times. These moving personal stories reminded us all of the power of shared lectio to transform lives and unite people of all backgrounds in Christ. Several people were motivated to start groups in their own localities, championed by Angus who declared that ‘this is what the Weave should be experts in’.

This witness of the unifying power of Lectio extended into our Saturday evening Convivencia - a Scottish Ceilidh in honour (rather unintentionally) of St Margaret of Scotland. The event strongly reminded me of Paul’s teaching that ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female… for all are one in Christ Jesus’. This was a remarkable event, in which every participant stood up on the floor and danced together, joyfully, messily and with heart and vigour, self-awareness forgotten. Charlotte later shared that she had been struck by how we all ‘reflected God’s glory’ in this occasion. After the Ceilidh, we prayed Compline, which was for many a powerful moment of encounter with God – the goodness and beauty of our Convivencia serving for us as a foretaste and preparation for meeting with its Divine Source. This Ceilidh was another indication of God’s Spirit working through this Manquehue seed planted on British soil - causing it to strengthen and renew the beauty and goodness of the existing culture.

Finally, what distinguishes the ‘General Retreat’ from another retreat? In this annual event, each attendee was invited to help to review and plan the different works (threads) of the Weave. So it was not only an ‘ordinary’ retreat of individuals coming together to pray. It required each participant to really give of themselves to others and to the work of the Weave. In their final echoes, some participants shared that they were reminded during the weekend that, ‘I’m not the centre of my universe’ – perhaps this came not only from recognising God in the centre of all things, but from practising humility through being forced to listen to one another.

It was not only the end products of ideas that were the fruits of our work. Rather, through hours of listening and working together, we received a sort of pedagogical experience of real community living – a confirmation and reflection of the very identity of the Weave, as not just a collection of individuals who like a particular way of praying but as a community that invites people to develop friendships in and, especially in the case of this retreat, for Christ. The retreat manifested how the Weave is living its Benedictine charism by becoming a ‘School of the Lord’s Service’, providing young people that are open to God’s call with practical opportunities for service and discipleship. For myself, I realised that through my involvement in the Weave, Christ is fulfilling to me the promise he makes to all who wish to follow him: ‘Come after me and I will make you a fisher of men’ (Matthew 4:19).

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