Weekend retreat for health and social care professionals
Worth Abbey: The Open Cloister,
STAR RATING: 4/5
Working in health or social care, we come into contact with people who, because of their illnesses, disabilities or difficult circumstances, might be asking some of the big questions in life, writes Richard Pacitti.
They ask: What’s the point/value/meaning of my life? How do I fit into the grand scheme of things? What is the grand scheme of things?
Also, things we come into contact with may challenge our beliefs (If there is a God, how can He allow suffering, abuse, cruelty etc?). Conversely, our beliefs might give comfort, strength and solace.
So what did I get from the residential retreat? Partly, I found it helpful to take a step back from my work (and my life) and consider it.
It was enjoyable to be in beautiful surroundings in the countryside with pleasant walks and a relaxed atmosphere.
It was great to have my meals cooked (the food was very good and plentiful) and not to have to think about all the little jobs around the house that need doing.
But you could argue that you could get all of this from a spa break or a pamper weekend. So what else does one get from a retreat at a monastery?
Some of the people on the retreat had strong religious beliefs, some less so. Some people participated fully in the church services and worship (prayers happen several times a day and are pivotal to the lives of the monks), some people observed without participating as such.
The church is a striking building and the prayers are sung by the monks, creating a very special atmosphere.
Certainly, moving at the pace and rhythm of the monastery (away from the “busyness” of life) is calming and refreshing.
But, for me, perhaps the most valuable thing was being with like-minded people who felt comfortable speaking about the human and spiritual aspects of our work, its real value.
For those of us who decide that we want to spend our working lives helping others, but don’t have religious beliefs or who don’t want to come across as too earnest or “touchy feely”, this can be a rare treat.
Richard Pacitti is chief executive of Mind in Croydon