The Vicar's Letter (written by Reverend Joy Cousans, Vicar of St Mary's Church in Eaton Bray) has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since June 2017
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Vicar's Letter

March 2024

Reverend Joy Cousans, vicar of the Church of St Mary The Virgin, Eaton Bray with Edlesborough.

Lent lasts until the end of March, with Easter Day falling on Sunday 31st March. Please see the centre of Focus for services during Holy Week and Easter. During Lent, the church encourages Christians consciously to review their relationship with God and to commit more time to prayer and reflection. In doing this, we are mirroring the behaviour of Jesus. During his ministry, Jesus often took himself off to a lonely place to pray.

He withdrew- or retreated- from his everyday demands and responsibilities. The whole period of Lent is inspired by Jesus's retreat into the desert at the very start of his public ministry. In this time, the gospel writers tell us, Jesus wrestled with his calling and all its implications for his life. On another occasion, the Transfiguration, Jesus took his closest disciples Peter, James and John up a high mountain which St Mark emphasises happens 'apart, by themselves' to experience an intense encounter of his glory.

If we want to encounter God more fully, it can help to follow the pattern which Jesus showed. One of the places where I have had my most profound encounters with God is when I have been on Retreat. I was introduced to the idea of going on retreat when I was in Ministerial training. So what does a Retreat entail? In her book 'Finding the right Retreat for you' Gillean Russell describes it like this. 'A Retreat is a time consciously set aside for God. It is a period of time, usually a day or a weekend, sometimes longer... for exploration, a time when you can discover and practise different ways of listening to God and responding to him, time to become more aware of the way God is to be found in creation and in your life experience. When you make a Retreat you are free from all domestic or work responsibilities, and you are in a quiet place so that all the channels of communication are open and ready'.

Prayer is about a relationship with God, and like most relationships it operates on different levels. Setting aside time to devote to that relationship helps to deepen and sustain it. Taking a Retreat each year is something which clergy are encouraged to do. But retreats are not just for clergy; they are for anyone wishing to make space for reflection and for the processing of the events of their life. Another important aspect of Retreats is the hospitality offered by the Retreat House. Most provide good food and comfortable surroundings. As Gillean Russell says, 'Everything on Retreat is geared to make you feel special.' Because we flourish when we know ourselves to be loved.

Over the past 30 plus years of ministry, I have been on many different types of Retreat. These include an art retreat, a poetry retreat and other Retreats led by various people lay and ordained. I have participated in silent Retreats, Ignatian Retreats and Individually Guided Retreats. Some have lasted a day, some a week and others 3 or 4 days. There is a huge variety of Retreats on offer with pretty much something to suit everyone. The Retreat Association produces information about what's available, which you can access on line. I would recommend trying a day Retreat to see if it is something which you think would help you in your relationship with God.

With every blessing for Lent, Holy Week and Easter,

Joy, Vicar of Eaton Bray with Edlesborough

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About the Vicar's Letter

The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.

The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the area for these.