After much thought and prayer and with sadness, I have decided that after more than twelve years Shell Cottage will no longer be run as a house of prayer and retreat after the end of 2008.
It has become clear that the steady increase in numbers of people wanting to spend time in the peace and quietness of such surroundings, means that to keep the house running in a way that is calm and prayerful as well as warm and welcoming, has really become almost a full-time job. Moreover, it has become more and more time-consuming at a moment when other commitments and the demands of family life mean that extra time is impossible to find. This is not a decision that has been taken lightly, but ironically has been precipitated by the overwhelming demand for the retreat and, although it is with great sadness that this decision has been made, it is nevertheless very thrilling to realise that there is such a high demand for this sort of place.
Over the years we have had visitors from literally all over the world, from almost every Christian denomination and none, some staying for several weeks and some for as little as an hour. Some have come on their own and some in a small group, or with one other person; some spending their time in complete silence and some quite the opposite; some planning their visit a year ahead and some within the hour; some coming only once and some very frequently as part of a regular rhythm of prayer and silence. Some have come to pray, some to be quiet, or to walk, to meditate, to read, to study, to rest and sleep, to work or to get away from work and the constant stresses and demands of the modern world. Whether consciously or not, everybody has come as part of their journey towards God and we have tried to provide a place where the atmosphere and surroundings have given an unobtrusive backdrop for this search, comfortable without being either too luxurious or too stark, so as not to distract or get in the way of God.
Thank you for your support and encouragement which has been essential over the years and without which we could not have continued. We have been overwhelmed by the way in which the cottage is in use all the time and by the help and generosity of everybody. It would be impossible to name all those to whom especial thanks are due, but equally impossible not to mention a few – Bishop Graham James, now Bishop of Norwich, who, when Bishop of St. Germans, dedicated the house before we began and has since kept in close touch, returning on several occasions over the years; Bishop Bill, Bishop Roy and all the senior staff of this diocese who encouraged and supported throughout the years, using the house regularly and encouraging others to do the same; all those who have led Quiet Days, Pilgrimage Walks, Study Days, Individually Guided Retreats, Prayer Groups and Lent Groups; the Shell Cottage prayer group, who have met faithfully every month over the years and every week during Lent and Advent, and who have been a constant support and listening ear; the Retreat Association and especially Paddy Lane, who has always been available at the end of the telephone with help and advice; and above all the Revd. Canon Perran Gay and the Revd. Aelred Burlton who have inspired, guided, encouraged and supported with unfailing wisdom and an unerring sense of direction, spending time with me every year in the cottage on the anniversary of its dedication, to discuss the future and celebrate the past, in a time that has been a combination of prayer and laughter.
However, none of this would have happened without all of you who have used the cottage for so many different reasons, who have faithfully supported all that we have tried to do and who have been so kind with your grateful appreciation. It has been the most enjoyable, rewarding and fulfilling experience, not without its challenges, but always interesting and full of surprises, moving in unexpected directions all the time and constantly changing. In the modern world we are judged by what we do rather than who we are, so it takes courage to do nothing, to take time to be and not to do, to be still and quiet and to wait for God, but it is important to do so, for how can we expect to hear his voice if we never stop to listen?
Thank you all for your support and prayers and for using Shell Cottage over the years as a place where prayer and silence is the norm and where the Holy Spirit can be felt at work in so many different ways.
Please get in touch with Bridget Hugh-Jones
(01736 810659, firstname.lastname@example.org)
if you would like information or advice about other retreat houses,
or contact the Retreat Association
(0207 357 7736, email@example.com)