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How do you, clergy or lay, approach a time to withdraw from the rigours of ministry on a Retreat? Is it for you an  opportunity to rest, to reflect on Scripture, perhaps to grow or to change direction? How each of us responds likely will depend on the season of our ministry and the pressures of day-to-day living.

On the annual Diocesan Clergy Retreat at St Clement’s, Galong, (13-16 August 2018), the Retreat leader, Bishop Allan Ewing (a
former Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn), invited participants to use the opportunity as God intended it for each one of us. The theme of the Retreat was ‘Living Sacrifice’. Bishop Allan introduced this theme with the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to the church at Rome: ‘I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God …’ (Romans 12: 1-2).

This passage was in the mind of Thomas Cranmer as he prepared the post-communion prayer, an adaptation of which now appears in The Holy Communion, First Order, (APBA) as ‘And here we offer and present to you, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice …’. In the Second and Third Orders we pray together: ‘Father, we offer ourselves to you as a living sacrifice through Jesus Christ our Lord. Send us out in the power of your Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory.’ (Italics added.)

Bishop Allan challenged us to reflect on what it is to live as a living sacrifice. It does not necessarily mean to live a life that is
totally expended; Jesus has done that already, once for all of humankind.

Through a series of biographical reflections we considered the lives of John Bunyan, Mother Julian of Norwich, Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia, Maria Skobtsova, Charles de Foucauld, Simone Weil, Mary the mother of our Lord and the Reverend James Benson. Each is remembered for different reasons. All did what they did in order to serve God.

I found it encouraging to learn that not even the saints and martyrs had their lives neatly knitted together. Even as we contemplate their lives and may be inspired by them, it helps us to realise that they erred, were confused, suffered
self-doubt, even struggled to learn to what it was that God was really calling them.

Each of us is different, each is called to live for God in different ways. Bishop Allan urged that we must be ourselves. We must learn what it means to give to God the things that are God’s and discover what in our lives rightly is to be given ‘to Caesar’. Bishop Allan acknowledged this can be hard to discern; there are practical matters to be dealt with every day that may distract from or interfere with what we have perceived to be our God-given ministry. Time on retreat may afford that peace, that stillness, which enables us to hear God’s voice over the distractions of the world.

We thank Archdeacon Caroline Campbell for coordinating and assisting with daily gathered worship services and for providing individual guidance. We thank Bishop Allan, including for the occasional ‘aside’ to keep us thinking long after the Retreat is over. As one example, are the parables of Jesus as simple and  straightforward as they may at first appear? Is our initial understanding of each necessarily the message Jesus set out to portray? A second example is this: each time we share Holy Communion with others we should reflect on what the command in The Dismissal really means for us as individuals, ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord’.

by Reverend Peter Rose

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