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Creativity and Spiritual Practice at Fosterton Retreat-What does that mean?

Those who know me have long considered me 'arty'. Max is 'arty'. Our home is 'arty'.

I can never remember a time I did not create in some way: with Stuart (my first husband) when we ran a drop in coffee shop (70s of course), with our kids, with other people's kids and of course for the last decade through my degree and post grad studies.

When we bought Fosterton retreat we told the lovely couple, who were cleaners for the previous owners and wanted to work with us, that we wanted to keep it to the same high standard but we would 'artify' it.

What does that mean?

There are original artworks in the buildings, some of my works and Max's handmade labyrinths, Banksy prints, the retreat space has coloured borders round every window, the jack 'n' jill benches are now coloured, sculptures are scattered around and increasing.... I won't go on (I could but I won't).

On our website we say we offer creative nature and creative spiritual retreats what does this mean? Do I have to be an artist? Do I have to subscribe to one shared spirituality or theology?

(Magpie Lark by Bronwyn)

More than a decade ago I went to a 6 day retreat with an artist from America: "Creativity as a language of prayer". Her

ideas, my pictures and the concepts of the Divine Mystery by others on that retreat were not all the same. But what a fantastic, deep, transformational 6 days it was for me.

The creating included playing with inks and paints for a few hours, working on repetitive mandalas and creating cards which represented (however we wanted to do that) times and events in our lives which were sign

ificant and unexplainable: Moments of Mystery. We all had them.

It was there, lead by the artist, drawing on a Native American Indian practice of marking the seasons, I began my ongoing practice of 'Thankfulness circles', before the flood of research which shows us how helpful a practice of gratitude is. Although many years after the Christian mantra "Count your blessings, name them one by one". This practice has carried me through some very turbulent times.

When we say we run creative spiritual retreats- that is an umbrella term. Meaning all our spiritual retreats, whatever the focus will have some creative way of going deeper or expanding our spiritual life.

First 'spiritual'. That's a term which is used a lot these days and can mean a few things:

"Relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things or relating to religion or religious belief." (Oxford languages)

(One of Max's works)

These definitions cover the breadth of what we offer. Using a labyrinth is a spiritual exercise, it is about our spirit and more than material things. Play and Pray are creative ways to deepen a relationship with the Divine Mystery, the Creator, the Great I Am, or whatever term you use to describe this Great Other.

Max and I have both been pastors and make no apologies for believing in a Creator God, or that we follow Jesus BUT your picture, your ideas do not have to match ours. Of course if you don't think there's some Mystery out there to connect with then Play & Pray retreat days are not for you. But a labyrinth day might be.

We try to be clear in our intentions, but if you're not sure, please talk to us.

So how creative do you need to be?

We will be doing art retreats, where people will come to develop their skills and go deeper through their art, and everything we do tries to also connect with nature.

Remember kids are naturally creative; they will make a cup into a spaceship, draw an image of their family, build a tower and have imaginary games. Sometimes we forget how to do that as we get older. Or we think it's just for children. Think again.

Can you choose a picture from a collection of them on a table? Can you glue bits of coloured paper to another piece of paper (even with help)? Can you rub a pencil over a piece of paper? Can you write anything? If you said "Yes' to any of these, then your level of creative skill is ready!

One thing I love is when doing an artwork in the community or somewhere others see it, there is always a parent wanting to show me what their child (young or old) can and has been doing creatively. They are So proud. That's how we feel at our retreats when we see people playing and discovering.

Maybe words are more your thing, then the exercise using a poem will grab you straight away but maybe the one with coloured pencils will also surprise you. It has for others!

(A retreat collage, disclaimer not by Sue below)

" I said yes to a retreat because I love sitting on nature, love the idea of setting aside time to connect with the Creator, and trust Bron and Max to provide a safe place to explore what that looks like for me. I was reticent to say yes to a retreat because I knew that it meant being creative which is not my happy place. As it turned out for both of the retreats I have participated in, there was no expectation of amazing artistic skills from me but encouragement to embrace a different way to lean into God, without expectation or judgement. Definitely worth the time investment! You may even find yourself walking a labyrinth," from Sue in 2021

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