In the second half of last year the decision was reached that the Minsteracres theme for the parish retreats in 2017 would be ‘seeds of hope’. This caused me to start focusing on what hope means for me personally, and how it has worked in my (faith) life. I had gone through a difficult stretch and had come to realise how easy it is to be glib about hope. Clearly it was one of those qualities which seems completely self evident until you need it and can’t find it.

It made me wonder whether you could train yourself in maintaining hope, in being hopeful, whatever was going on in life, and especially when the way forward was seemingly blocked. In my quest for answers I began looking up what had been written about hope in the course of time. In this manner I amassed loads of definitions and learned insights! Such as…..

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.

                                                                                                Desmond Tutu

I read stories about how prisoners, refugees, hostages, people suffering from debilitating diseases, etc. managed not to give up hope. I would ask those around me to tell me about their stories of how to get a grip on hope. What could I learn from others experiences of what faith meant in holding on to hope? What did scripture have to teach us about hope? All that listening and reading was enlightening and inspiring. It also made me see that hope is not acquired without putting your back into it: you have to actively exercise hope to make it strong.

to hope is to fly

it demands radical commitment

to lift off from the pull of gravity

and rise to the true heights

of our being

                                 Bonaventure

As our retreat team began to prepare the ‘seeds of hope’ programme we became conscious of how many times a day we say “I hope…..” ? “I hope for dry weather, a parking spot, good results, and I hope that I finally win the lottery!” We recognised how we all spend a good deal of mental energy on hoping for all kinds of large and small matters, in response to the many real or perceived anxieties and concerns in our lives. We also acknowledged that, from a faith perspective, we hold fast to the hope that all will be well in the end when the Kingdom of God is established.

However, we also admitted that we had struggled to actually feel real hope when the going got hard and how easily despair set in. So we decided it would be inspiring if, in this year’s retreats, we could take hope, hoping, hopefulness, to a new level. Wouldn’t it beneficial if we all learned to reboot our minds and hearts to enduring attitudes of hope, rooted in confidence that God supports and sustains us?

As everybody who has ever been to Minsteracres knows, the initial experience of driving up through those grand Sequoias makes a memorable impression. So we decided to make the Sequoia tree our metaphor for nurturing, growing and sustaining seeds of hope into mature hope.

After all the seeds of a Sequoia are tiny and difficult to germinate, to nurture and to grow into maturity, just like the seeds of hope.

Hope is a microscopic seed,

  From which great things can grow –

  Courage and kindness,

  Patience, endurance and love.”      

 Charlotte Gray 

The season for retreats and new growth is just starting up. With our hearts and hands we are looking at what to plant and what to develop in our life and in our world. You are welcome to come up to Minsteracres if you are wondering about cultivating your own seeds of hope in 2017.