For many people there isn't time or opportunity to travel to the monastery. The solution, therefore, is for us to bring something of the monastery to you.
We are in the midst of completely revising our online retreats. Hitherto we have been offering a small selection of five-day online retreats: an opportunity to spend time in prayer and reflection under the guidance of a member of the community who will offer some input intended specifically for you. You will be able to study the 'retreat material' (audiovisual and written) at your own pace. Your retreat guide will also be on hand at agreed times for consultation (Companion and Shared Retreats only). These retreats are hosted on our sister site, www.onlineretreats.org. The site has been developed to be accessible on both desktop and small-screen mobile devices.
We would love to be able to offer these online retreats free but cannot do so because they make huge demands on community resources, so please don't be surprised that we ask participants to pay for them. There are three kinds available to choose from.
These provide five sets of audiovisual and written material. There will be an opportunity each day to talk one-to-one with your retreat guide via Skype or some other agreed medium. Companion Retreats must be booked in advance, and numbers will be limited to no more than three participants at any one time to ensure that each retreatant receives proper personal attention.
These provide five sets of audiovisual and written material with an opportunity to interact with the retreat guide at stated times via an online chatroom facility (i.e. no individual sessions available). Shared Retreats must also be booked in advance and numbers will be limited to twenty participants at any one time. Three modules have been prepared so far, on the Psalms, the Rule of St Benedict for Beginners, and Advent.
Five Minute Focus Retreats
These are mini online retreats, providing five sets of written material and (usually) some audio input. There is no interaction with the retreat giver other than through the Retreatline and a time-limited LiveChat facility. No advance booking is required. The first of these Five Minute Focus Retreats is on Lenten lectio divina, the characteristic Benedictine tradition of prayerful reading. In time, we hope to be able to make some of these mini-retreats into an iPhone and Android app. Other modules will be appearing throughout the year.
For all three kinds of retreat there is a dedicated Retreatline allowing email contact with the retreat guide. In the case of the Five Minute Focus Retreats, it is intended that the Retreatline should be used only for questions of a general nature/feedback.
21 March, 2011, the feast of St Benedict. The Five-Minute Focus Retreats proved so popular that we have delayed the launch of the Shared and Companion Retreats in order to produce more 'mini' modules.
These are online web conferences, open to all, during which you can discuss with the nuns and other interested people questions concerning Faith and practice. We have had some trouble in the past with the Talkshoe VOIP client, but our new conference room seems to be working well. Our main problem is the infuriatingly slow rural Broadband service! See the Media section for further details.
For our Virtual Chapters we use the traditional Benedictine chapter format: an opening prayer, some input, often in the form of a talk from the prioress, then a general discussion. We always end with a prayer and blessing.
And the Future?
There are rumours that someone in the monastery is beavering away at an iPhone app, and you can always keep abreast of what is happening by following us on Facebook or Twitter. In the meantime, we are always grateful for suggestions about how we can make this site more useful. Some ideas require more time or resources than we have available, but any we think we can manage, we will.