When time stands still ....

What's it like to go on retreat?


"I've not been on a retreat before," she confided quietly as she arrived. "I'm not sure I'll survive three whole days! I'm not very good at being alone for hours on end......"

I led her past the sitting room, the library, motioned towards the chairs in the garden, pointed out the chapel and  showed her to her room.  

Gasps of delight. "I've not slept in a fourposter bed before, either!" 

She's been glimpsed at meals; and she's told me a little of what's been going on. Long luxurious hours asleep; a reading through the whole of Philippians in one sitting; browsing in the library; praying in the chapel - not with words but through gazing at the old misshapen cross on the wall and thinking through the implications of Calvary; an amble across the fields; talking with others also on retreat here; joining in Compline each evening; appreciating a midday guided Lectio Divina; playing with the dog in the orchard...

"There's really not enough time to think and pray through everything that I need to bring to the Lord," she said at last. "I'll need to come again. But I've really known His Presence while I've been on retreat. It seems easier here than it does at home, somehow."

Yesterday - A typical Saturday at Mays Farm?

Glorious day! There are retreatants in deck chairs around the garden, dozing, reading, praying ... one is in the sitting room with a caffetiere of coffee and browsing through "Country Life" .... another is still asleep ... someone's playing the piano in the chapel ....
What a privilege to be creating the space and place for people to 
#re:fresh re:new re:treat

FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T BEEN ON RETREAT BEFORE  and are not sure where to start:


part of the national retreat events for the weekend of June 13 - 15 2014

A time to step away from normal routines and try some space and sanctuary.

Ideal for those who have not experienced a retreat before.

A guided retreat but with plenty of down time.

And breakfast in bed.

Walks, rhythm of prayers in Chapel, good food, comfy beds ....

Book now for this retreat special!

arrive Friday June 13th late afternoon, depart Sunday June 15th after lunch.

48 hours of time to BE (with help on that if you need it!)


the library clock

the library clock

They came, they worked, they were unsung heroes

Over 125 people nights in our first five weeks of living at Mays Farm. 550 meals served. And still no hob or Aga.

From not a single shower (or loo) working the first night, to 6 full working bathrooms.

Arriving on Thursday July 18, moving in that morning - and our first brave retreatant arriving that afternoon.

She unpacked the kitchen china.

5 communion services.

Many lovely sessions of Lectio Divina and Imaginative Prayer.

Compline in the garden. In the Library. By candlelight. In silence or aloud.

God here.

Blessing people as only He can.

*  *  *  *

Some were old friends; some we had never met before.

They were young and old, ordained or not, local or far away.

Africa, America, Nepal, London, Birmingham, Oxford, Huntingdon, ..... Some had flown from overseas specially, just for a Preview Retreat.

They stayed for free, took part in retreat life morning and evening, but helped for hours each afternoon.

Gardening, decorating, unpacking, creating ....


*  *  *  *  

This last week has been another walking retreat. This time we were all fast walkers and the walks of 6 or 7 miles each morning were a delight in the late summer sun. Castle Combe, Norton, Gorsey Leaze, Surrendell, East Dunley, Lower Dene, Ford - we strode across  fields and through woods. Until the moments when we went slow, slower, slowest, to appreciate that we are 'fearfully and wonderfully made.' (Psalm 139)


Something else was fearfully and wonderfully made - or wonderfully complex, as one translation says. Peter and Richard, two enthusisatic and gifted amateur carpenters, decided to make the communion table for the chapel, from wood found in the house. They had never met before, never worked together before. But the American and the Englishman have created a thing of great beauty which will be used for many years to come in our little chapel. It was amazing to see it take shape over the days.


While they were hard at work as carpenters, others were decorating the sitting room. Ready for future retreatants to sit in comfort to read, relax, reflect.

Or clearing the ivy on the drystone walls in the newly refreshed courtyard.



And further up the garden path, the gazebo gradually take shape in the wild flower meadow.


And so the Preview Retreats have come to an end.

The house is quiet and at rest.

But already we have some bookings for retreats in the Autumn.

When are you coming?

Come alone; or with your small group, your leadership team, your family or friends.

Come for some peace at this place of spiritual sanctuary and sweetness.

Come and take time to abide in the Vine. 

Jesus said, "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who abide in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

*  *  *  *

We have been blessed by those who have come on retreat and given so much of their time and energy.

Our prayer is that The Vine @ Mays Farm will be a blessing to many over the months and years ahead.

The Vine @ Mays Farm

for retreats, 

quiet days, 

quiet spaces,

Spiritual Direction

leadership training

& mentoring


come alone

come with a group

bring your friends

your small group

your leadership team


Your prayers are really needed.

The third Preview (ie, free but you are a glamping guinea pig) has just ended. What a fun week we had! Eleven of us in the house, just as the weather decided not to be quite so nice.  Rain in the mornings - so there were work parties on the stairs and landing and in the hall, sanding and filling and painting and decorating. The angelic sounds of singing voices  came wafting down the stairs where they intermingled with the iPad playing worship music. There was a plastic shower cap on one head to avoid paint splashes; rubber gloves on various hands; much fun and laughter. One bedroom door (Stamford) even has its first coat of gloss - which is a first for the whole house! There are miles and miles of skirting boards yet to be glossed ... And in the afternoons we set off to walk.  5 miles across the fields to Surrendell and back; 6 miles round trip to gloriously pretty Castle Combe; and a mere 2.5 miles to circumnavigate historic Malmesbury before investigating the ancient Abbey. And on the feedback forms inevitably a mix:  we walked too far - or not far enough; we walked too quickly - or not fast enough. But Gracie the dog loved it all and enjoyed whichever walk we did.

There was Compline by candlelight in the Library; Lectio Divina one evening, Ignatian Contemplative prayer another. And we finished by sharing in Communion together on Friday morning. The days had flown past and the Lord had graciously met with people in various ways and at various times. Farewells were made with hugs and hugging as email and contact details were exchanged. The Lord brought people together in extraordinarily deep ways in such a short time.

"A strong sense of God's blessing on this place already."

"Three full days was too short!"

"Appreciated being involved and playing a small part at the outset."

"Would definitely like to come back either on my own or to bring a group."

"God really spoke to me in that meditation - I've never experienced Scripture like that before!"

"God was certainly blessing me over these few days and I hope to continue feeling blessed as I take Mays Farm back with me to my life at home."

"Thanks for the quiet times spent together getting into God's Word - very helpful."

"Loved Gracie!"


And so the work continues. And the retreats keep going - we are just starting the Preview cycle again, of individual retreats, then a Guided Silent Retreat and then another Walking Retreat. And next weekend, the first time that a small group will be here - 7 or 8 of them coming together, building their friendship and fellowship through being here, working on a project . The Courtyard is currently being re-laid and we are down to 2 or 3 builders and decorators a day - very quiet after the 8 -10 men we had each day at one stage!

We are now taking bookings for the autumn, and the house will be almost finished. It won't be completely finished   - there isn't the finances to do it all right now, as we have not been able to  sell  our cottage so the money is running out . There's no refurbishing and finishing of the office or the chapel, and we are sad about the chapel as it will be such a vital part of the ministry. The lovely Drawing Room, also for the use of guests, will not be usable yet either. There's no summer house to sit in - just the foundations; but that can wait for another year; and the decorating will not be finished .. we shall sit and paint gloss work for days to come, but that's all right.

It's the Chapel in particular we are concerned about.

Might you pray that the money will be provided for this? That somehow, from somewhere, the Lord would enable the Chapel to be finished and fitted out, so that we can have it for services and celebrations, for devotional times and for spiritual direction times. For groups to use and for individuals to sit and pray. And if you are able to contribute financially that would be amazing too, either for the finishing of the Chapel, or to establish a bursary fund to enable those to come who might not otherwise be able to - such as younger clergy.

But most of all we would love for you to pray for this new ministry and for those coming who need this place of spiritual sanctuary, a place of refreshment and renewal, a of retreat and restoration.









How you can help:

Please pray

Please come -  and enjoy a retreat at Mays Farm

Please tell others

Please bring others

and maybe begin by sharing this blog post?

THANK YOU -  You are MUCH appreciated!



Alleviating the January Blues - part two

How to stave off the annual blues of deepest darkest January? I decided to take positive action this year. First there was a decision to make  - not Resolutions, but decisions that energise me and enthuse me.

Then, I started a survival kit following the advice of the Rev Sydney Smith (you can read about it here if you missed part one) in order to prevent the anticlimax and antacids of bleak midwinter blues.  But in spite of following a few of his suggestions, I found I needed something more.


Deep, deep sleep.

Maybe it’s the urge to hibernate. To sleep through the cold and damp and dark.

Maybe it’s a desire to escape.

Or maybe it’s just a reflection of how much sleep I am missing, of the hours I need to catch up after the busyness and stressfulness of the weeks before Christmas.

I certainly know that I don’t function well if I have had too little sleep. Who does? Most of us are not like Winston Churchill or Margaret Thatcher, both of whom are reputed to have needed only three or four hours sleep each night. I need at least seven and preferably eight hours under the covers.

And I have discovered that there are ways to help me achieve those hours.

-       get ready for bed early. If I leave it until it’s almost past my bed time I am too tired to be bothered to go upstairs. So then I procrastinate and then it gets later and later. And there’s something rather comforting about being in my pyjamas early, ready for bed, but still pottering about downstairs.

-       dim the lights. Too much bright light too late at night is far too energizing. So a small occasional lamp, and not the main lights, helps relaxation. (Sitting gazing at the embers of the fire, by candlelight, in my pyjamas, is remarkably soporific. If only!!)

-       dim the electronics. It’s all too tempting to check emails or social media sites last thing at night, but it actually stimulates my brain. As does any moving image, whether it’s a film, the 10 o’clock news or YouTube.  I’m learning to resist the temptation.

-       prayers in bed.

Being in bed in time to spend a few moments with the Lord.  A short Compline; or some Celtic prayers from David Adams; or the Examen from Ignatius. Handing the day back to the Lord calms and restores me and settles me in a way that is hard to explain but which leads to a better quality sleep.

-       a hot water bottle. Nice to be cosy!

But even more, I know that the quality of my sleep has to do with the quality of my day.

"It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep." Psalm 127:2 (ESV)  My days are too often a hurlyburly of rush and catchup and then I forget to breathe. Just breathe.

I read this the other day:

Oh yes, that's me. Certainly the me I used to be. But it doesn't make me restful and peaceful and someone I think others would like to be with. And now I am older, fast approaching a rather large birthday, I know that my body and my mind and my heart crave that rest and peace.

Tranquillity. Space. Rest.  And if I don't live like that now, I never will.  It's a conscious choice - no one else can choose it for me! Why rush around in that vainness mentioned in Psalm 127:2 when I actually don't enjoy it anyway? Instead of thinking 'I have to be everything' I can choose to think, 'I have to be me, the me God made me to be.'

And that me needs tranquillity and space and rest.

And good sleep.

Now I’m feeling really sleepy …  time for a nap, I think.

What have you found that helps you sleep better? And what helps you with the January blues?