It’s been a little surreal in the time since the Easter Workshop concluded. We gathered for Morning Office on Monday and de-briefed, said goodbyes and exchanged contact information pledging to stay in touch. It very reminded me of a creativity retreat I attended in high school. There is a very real, but sadly often temporary bond that forms when you have a few intense days together with people who are seeking the same thing.
We confess. We reveal. We hope together. We explore. It’s a microcosm of all legitimate Christian community, really. We feel this gravitational pull toward one another as we draw near to God. We’re made for this kind of attachment. It’s Biblical.
But it’s incomplete.
You see, almost everyone has now left. The full time house team and other Community leaders are enjoying some much needed rest after the busiest few days in house life (and in some ways the busiest days since Covid lockdowns!) Retreats will begin again next week. People will begin arriving (in smaller numbers) but for now, the house is almost entirely empty. I came into the chapel last night and said Evening Office by myself (Brenda was deeply weary after a long day of walking). It was not “sad” to say the Office alone (I usually do so) but, well, surreal is the right word for it. I felt it important that, while I’m here as a temporary member of the team, to “spell” the hard working regular team members and support the wider community by making sure prayers are being spoken in this space when it’s in my power to do so.
The incompleteness of it all makes itself known in that silence. It’s impossible not to sense that the space is meant to be shared. To be a solitary worshipper is like diving for pearls: you hold your breath for a short time, penetrate the wonder (and danger)of the deep but you must soon return to the life-giving air above. We see this understanding reflected in the ethos of Holy Island itself. The tide closes the island for times of solitude. Then opens again for community.
Breathing in. Breathing out.
When one has had an intense time of spiritual community, the natural desire is to extend that intimacy. And sometimes we can…sometimes it’s good. But ultimately, those connections can never be fulfilled perfectly. They are simply a foretaste of the complete community we will share on the other side. The surreal solitude after a full house reminds us…”Not yet, my child. Someday. Someday soon.”
As if to illustrate this, a descent storm blew across Northumberland last night. Rain and 45 mph gusts. We even lost power for a time. This morning, clear and cold, and this scene in the cloister.
What had been a perfect circle of chairs around a brazier, where just a couple of days ago 30 or so pilgrims prayed together in unity, was now a water-logged hodge-podge of plastic chairs on display for one, solitary figure.
But note, the promise of the day to come shines through the parting clouds.