A group of Methodist probationer ministers have been enjoying one of their regular visits to Minsteracres.

The group covers a wide area including Cumbria, Scotland and the districts of Newcastle and Darlington, and usually alternates between venues across the region.

“We are mostly here every other year, but the venue we had booked in Scotland let us down at the last minute and we were delighted that Minsteracres was able to accommodate us,” says Gill Welsh, one of the organisers.

As a minister, Gill has been coming here for around seven years, since she herself began as a probationer. For her it is the space and beauty of Minsteracres which sets it apart as a venue. “Being able to walk around the grounds in our free time is a bonus,” she says, “As is the regular supply of coffee and cakes!”

The flexibility of the space works well for the group too, with use of several of the public rooms as well as the Bethany lounge with its kitchenette (for more tea and coffee).

Stephanie Njeru is a first year probationer and a first time visitor. Though she would have preferred en-suite accommodation, she was pleased with her room and enjoyed the space.

“It’s really nice to get together and share stories after a few months on our own,” she says. “It’s been quite hectic recently especially as Easter follows so quickly on after Christmas so it’s nice to have a bit of a break before we go into Lent.”

Leading the two-day retreat is Rev Canon Dominic Ind, a spiritual director and retreat leader from the Scottish Episcopal Church. “My focus was on the probationers as individuals, sowing the seeds to help them reflect on and develop their personal journey as well as their ministry.”

Newcastle upon Tyne Methodist District chair Stephen Lindridge adds, “The journey towards ordination is usually about two years. The main purpose of this event is to bring the probationers to share time together, to show them they are not alone, that they face the same challenges.

“The dialogue, the prayers, the walks and the collegiality all help. And the fire in the parlour is great! It has a real ambiance.”