I wanted to take the opportunity to look forward to 2021 with a sense of hope. We all know the Covid-19 pandemic has had an adverse effect on all aspects of our lives. It has also hit retreat centres like Minsteracres hard financially, at a time when some are experiencing a huge increase in demand for their services, but are unable to service this due to social distancing. Whilst this is enormously frustrating, it has created opportunities for us. These include:
- Digital opportunities with more people turning to video and online service provision;
- How the younger generation have embraced the crisis and are looking for new ways to support charities not just now, but in the future;
- A reflection how in times of crisis, people have come together to support each other and charities they care about.
With these opportunities in mind, our retreat team are looking at two critical issues that will have a bearing on our future:
Firstly, to review what it means to be a Christian retreat centre in these challenging times so that we are in a better position to respond in more relevant way to our retreatants. For this review, we have been very fortunate to secure the involvement of Professor Karen Kilby who is an American theologian and currently the Bede Professor of Catholic Theology in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University.
Secondly, to look at the technical aspects of providing some of our retreats online so that we can take advantage of the digital opportunities that abound.
Two small working groups have been established to look at these issues and they will be reporting in the New Year. Part of this process will also involve revamping the website, which will have a major overhaul since the current one was developed in 2014. We will inform you once the new website goes live.
At the beginning of Advent, I published our programme online and within hours of going ‘live’, we had already received a number of bookings. Therefore, clearly people are watching our website and keen to return. If you would like to review our retreats for next year, you can view them here
Therefore, behind the scenes a lot of thinking is going on to secure our future. A future that brings hope—that we can see friends and loved ones in person again; that we can go on retreat again and meet new friends; that we can worship together again; and generally return to some degree of normality.
Advent is often described as a time of expectant waiting and preparation. So, as we begin the new Christian year, perhaps we should prepare for better times by using the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has strewn in our path to bring into sharp focus those things that are most important to us both as individuals and society. How will we improve relationships with the most important people in our lives; how will we serve the needs and aspirations of the more vulnerable members of society; and what difference are we going to make to reduce our impact on the environment?
I wanted to say ‘thank you’ to all of you who have supported us in spirit and in kind during this difficult year. You have been very generous and we feel blessed. I wish you and your families a happy Christmas in whatever circumstances and a peaceful New Year.
Geoff Bockett, Manager Christmas 2020