Monday 19 June saw a small group of RAF personnel, from various branches and trades, gathering at Belmont Abbey near Hereford, to take part in the RAF RC Retreat Jun 17. Five of the group had previously attended a retreat, but for 2 it was their first experience of the peace and spiritually uplifting experience to be gained by taking part.
RAF RC Retreats have been held twice yearly in June and October for a decade and have been attended by many people at various stages of their faith journeys. Although organised by the RAF Pastoral Advisory Group (PAG), and targeted for members of the RAF family, retreats are open to the Whole Force. Attendees from the Royal Navy and Army are very welcome. All are encouraged to attend, irrespective of their faith; or indeed if they hold no particular faith. However, the Retreats have an inherent Catholic feel, although at Belmont Abbey this time around, the “Retreaters” comprised of 3 Roman Catholics, one Methodist, one C of E, one Scottish Presbyterian, and one who held no particular faith, but who felt all the same, in need of some spiritual enrichment. Belmont Abbey, like Worth Abbey which hosts the autumn retreat, is the home of a community of Benedictine Monks following the traditions set down by St Benedict 1200 years ago. Monks start off as Brothers in the Abbey and can progress to full training for the priesthood – when they are ordained and become a Father. St Benedict established the tradition of hospitality to visitors-still maintained today. Monks give up all their possessions and dedicate themselves to the Order.
Our Retreat’s first day started with tea and cake at 4pm, which was a great part of the success of the retreat! The excellent meals and tea and coffee breaks were of the highest quality! But more than that, they gave all 7 of us the opportunity to mix and get to know each other and debate further the many different subjects which had come up during the group sessions delivered by Father Brendan, the Retreat Master and our Assigned Group Session Monk.
We took part in 3 group sessions daily, in between attending the Abbey, to join in differing religious services and the Monk’s Daily Office. There was also time for personal time and reflection, and of course enjoy lovely lunch and evening meals. The accommodation at Belmont Abbey was lovely – very comfortable and we felt very “spoiled”! Belmont is surrounded by beautiful gardens and indeed the beautiful Herefordshire countryside.
I’m sure that, like me, my colleagues were sorry to see the Retreat come to a close on Thursday afternoon. We all determined to return again as we had enjoyed it so much!
Anyone considering attending a Retreat should go ahead. The RAF considers attendance as Force Development; therefore T+S can be applied for on the agreement of your Budget Holder. I can strongly recommend an RAF Retreat to anyone who feels they would benefit from time away from the mad rush of everyday life and who feels they would enjoy some spiritual enlightenment.
So don’t just sit there – apply!! I guarantee you won’t be sorry!! The next RAF Retreat will take place at Worth Abbey, West Sussex from Monday 2 to Thursday 5 October 2017.
Wg Cdr Alison M Moodie