Last Saturday my colleague Rikke organised a ‘Street Retreat’. In spirituality ‘ a retreat’ is a time of quiet for meditation or prayer. The name suggests a drawing back from the usual activities to find time for God. Retreats often take place therefore in places of quiet and calm – monasteries deep in the countryside would be the usual place. Going against the grain we decide the hold an afternoon for meditation in a place of urban noise and busyness – St. Pancras,Euston Road and Kings Cross.
Rikke came across the idea in the work of the Church Urban Fund. They pioneered the idea to give people for a day of prayer in an area of urban deprivation. Here it is used to raise awareness of issues of poverty and social exclusion. It would certainly take most of us well outside out comfort zone. For us it was enough to offer a meditative experience in the city, the place we live our daily lives.
We began with a meditation in St Pancras Church. There were eleven of us and we then spent the next two hours in our own in the city. Amidst the usual rushing crowds and traffic we walked alone. Free to watch the city and the people around us. Free from having to ‘do anything’ it is easier to pay attention to what is going on inside us. It is a different kind of time, a meditative time. So all that we saw and felt was within a greater awareness of our self and a greater openness to God’s presence. A great thanks to everyone who took part in the experiment!