Experiencing a Retreat in Daily Life

By Sandra Broadus

For many people, the idea of taking a month, a week, or even a weekend to go on retreat seems like a distant and unattainable luxury. Life is busy for all of us, but for those who are in the beginnings of their journey of spiritual formation, the rewards of spending time in contemplation are theoretical and difficult to understand. That is why the experience of a Retreat in Daily Life is so valuable.

The Retreat in Daily Life is fashioned after the late John Veltri’s "Week of Directed Prayer in a Church Setting" (Orientations, Vol. 2, Part B p.589f). It is a retreat undertaken while still carrying on with your daily routine, setting aside time for guided prayer and visiting with a spiritual director for 30 minutes each day. The duration of a Retreat in Daily Life (RDL) can flex from five days to five weeks, depending on the format the coordinating director feels would best suit the potential participants.

The RDL traditionally takes place over a five-day period, which includes two group gatherings (opening and closing) and five individual sessions with a director. The opening session familiarizes retreatants with the forms of contemplative prayer that will be introduced to them in their guided prayer times and allows the retreatants to meet their directors. The closing session provides an opportunity for group spiritual direction, as well as allowing retreatants to offer experiences and God encounters with the larger group. This, too, can be an opportunity for sharing Communion together or some other Awareness exercise for offering the learnings and transformations from the retreat experience.

During the retreat experience, retreatants are given a list of prayer passages and accompanying thoughts to guide their prayer, for each of the five days. These five days of prayer mirror the classic journey of Purgation, Illumination and Contemplation/Union, ending with the awareness that we are called outside of ourselves to love and serve others. Each day, the retreatant meets with a specifically assigned spiritual director at the same agreed upon time. Traditionally, spiritual directors meet with no more than four directees. Thus, if there are 20 retreatants, this requires five participating spiritual directors. Often, the directors also meet in a peer supervision environment daily during the retreat to communally bring more of God’s Light to the processing of the retreat.

In 2004, I was asked to participate at St. Peter’s Anglican in Mississauga as a spiritual director. I was amazed and awe-struck at God’s incredible work in so many lives, over just five days. In 2005, I facilitated this same retreat in my home church, Chartwell Baptist, and have done so every year since, gathering collegues from far and wide to help direct the retreatants. Tom Bell has also recently begun offering the RDL at The Meeting House in Oakville, continuing every year. In 2009, Marsha Kahale has offered the RDL at the Alliance Church in Markham. God is so good and provides for His people.

Dreaming with Him causes me to ask where He will use the RDL next. Perhaps at Tyndale?