Student retreat in daily life

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Second year Chem Eng student Helena Taylor shared her experience of the recent student ‘at home’ retreat week organised by University of Bath Chaplain Karen Turner in conjunction with Bath Spa Uni.

“The week started with all the participants meeting up at Magdalen Chapel on the Holloway in Bath. This peaceful old Chapel dates to Norman times and has lovely views over the city to Bath Abbey. Led by a team of trained prayer guides and Steve Hoyland, a chaplain working for the Jesuits, the group included a real mix of people with a couple of members of local churches, Karen and husband Phil, plus about 15 current students and Bath alumni.

“During the first meeting we were all matched to a prayer guide over tea and cake, and committed to 30 minutes of private prayer a day followed by a 30 minute in-person or remote meeting with our prayer guide. Going into the Chapel we all prayed using a Lectio Divina style scripture reading and reflection. We also sang some beautiful Taizé together whenever we gathered as a group – which was at the start and end of the retreat and during the three additional workshops. The quote from St Augustine: “Those who sing pray twice”, felt true for me!


“Having a prayer guide really helped me to focus on my prayer. We discussed which types of prayer worked for us and our prayer guides suggested different techniques. My prayer guide and I talked about Lectio Divina versus Visio Divina – a pictorial prompt rather than a Bible verse – and even came up with a new idea, Scriptio Divina; prayer whilst writing out a verse of scripture.

“I also tried praying listening to music. During the retreat week, I was feeling very stressed with exam revision and coursework. I was surprised to find that this way of praying worked particularly well for me, as it gave me the chance to clear and my mind and set aside the worries of the day, leaving me with a feeling of calm.


“During the week there were also three optional workshops which were open to anyone to join. The workshops were all held at different locations around Bath and it was great to explore new places. Workshops included: ways of praying, discernment and images of God. My favourite workshop was the imaginative prayer workshop. I’d never tried imaginative prayer before, and it was great to take time to out to try something different. At the start of the session, thought provoking prayer question prompts encouraged us to talk to different people and hear other peoples’ experience of prayer and how it has impacted their lives. The session was meditative and very individual to the person – we all came out feeling the Holy Spirit had spoken to us differently.


“Joining a ‘retreat in daily life’ was great as there was real sense of going through the week together even though we had individual meetings (most were in person in the Chapel and you saw people coming and going). It was also really nice to have the retreat integrated into our day-to-day as it made it more manageable. At the final meeting we all discussed and reflected on our experiences of the week and shared anything that we had learnt or insights into what we had found most useful. For me, I think the retreat helped to create a habit to try the sort of prayer that works at that ‘moment’ rather that pursing something formulaic.

“My takeaway for the week was that it’s ok to pray in the way that you can at that moment and let God speak to you where you are.”

Helena Taylor
Chaplaincy Assistant

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  • Beautifully written. Really clear too. With your permission Helena, may I pop this on our website for others to see? God bless from Warwick, finishing soon. Stephen