Remembering what Archbishop Justin said at the start of his time as Archbishop that “the three Quinquennial Goals of growing the church, contributing to the common good and reimagining ministry, was that for that re-imagination to be more than surface deep, we need a renewal of prayer and the Religious Life”, St Katharine’s seeks to offer a place of prayer for many people. In time, it hopes to re-establish the religious community that was at its heart for so much of its history.
There is now an extensive programme of Quiet Days and Residential Retreats. Once a month, all other business is suspended and the doors are just open for those looking for an Open Reflective Day. People use these days in all sorts of ways but the common theme seems to be a desire “to be” rather than “to do”, to reflect on themselves. Some of this life is organised by St Katharine’s but a very good number of churches, Christian charities and cell groups now seek out our space to run their own events.
The decision has now been made to provide an area entirely dedicated to meeting this need for a prayerful space. Hence a new Reflective Zone is being created close to our Chapel and slightly apart from the rest of buildings. Our existing three reflective bedrooms will be joined by seven new bedrooms alongside a beautiful courtyard garden and small meeting rooms and a dining room. This can all be separate from the other activity happening on site. It will allow St Katharine’s to offer a sanctuary for those looking to deepen their lives nearly all the year round.
The atmosphere of this zone is designed to create a reflective space where people can, in different ways, step back from the busy-ness of life to reflect and think deeply. This might be on a guided retreat, in mindful conversation with others or just in taking some time to think. It may be organised by St Katharine’s or taken over by a particular group to meet their own needs. The rooms are in an urban setting and so are not a place to expect a complete withdrawal from everyday life. However it is in that setting that the majority of us have to find our meaning, purpose and even our encounters with God.
Although, there is never going to be complete silence, but it will be possible to step back and seek an inner quiet. St Katharine’s believes it is creating a space in which that journey into our depths, which is part of the process often associated with exploring silence, can happen. It is clear from the number of people attending our programmes and also using our space to host events of their own, that there is a real desire for space and time in which to think, reflect and for some to be open to God’s Still Small Voice.
What has been so moving is the number of times that people share with us the fact that they have heard that whispering voice, deep in their hearts, even though London rampages on outside our walls.