Willersley CastleTwenty three members of St John’s gathered at Willersley Castle Hotel on the edge of the Derbyshire Peak District on Friday 6th June to celebrate Pentecost. It was a weekend of relaxation, reflection, and home-made entertainment. It gave people the opportunity to get to know each other better as well as to spend some quiet time alone if that was what people wanted. The setting certainly helped to get that away-from-it-all feeling with beautiful views and an amazing building created by James Arkwright (from Bolton).

All together nowThe weather on Friday was sunny and warm so there was a chance to go exploring in the extensive grounds or to relax and watch a film. The plan was to have a walk on Saturday morning and although bad weather was forecast, there were plenty of hardy souls who had come prepared with wet weather gear. Colin and Sheila had done a great job planning a route, although it had to be revised several times because the footpaths on the map were not really passable in reality or were too steep and rough. The walk, however, was a real treat and included a forest path leading to a small railway junction with two old carriages, and a walk along the canal towpath., This is when the rain really did come down hard but here we met a barge being¬† towed by a shire horse (rather a small one!) from the towpath. After lunch people tended to do their own thing but some of us enjoyed a painting lesson from Pat who did a great job helping us to create a small card that was actually not bad and quite useable. The other craft learned during the weekend was crochet where informal tuition led to the prospect of adventurous projects. The evening session began with a quiz organised by Eileen and Eric. Everyone seemed to enjoy this as it meant getting up and finding the questions pinned up around the room. They varied from quite easy to very tricky, especially identifying songs and their artists just from initials and a date, and flag recognition proved a problem for many of us. We were also able to celebrate Steven’s 60th birthday and enjoy his two cakes together with him.

During the weekend Jennifer led a series of short reflections and prayers. These were themed around the fact that our faith is about a relationship with God and is not about rules and regulations. We began thinking about barriers that make it hard to create justice and love between all in God’s world. We began making a wall (a symbol of that which we need to break down) by creating cut-out bricks labelled with an issue or attitude that needs to be overcome. Sunday worship developed this theme for Pentecost and we looked at the gifts of the Spirit which might help to overcome the barriers. The gifts, written on paper “flames”, were stuck over the obstacles so that the flames appeared to consume and overcome the wall – very effective. Let us hope we are now able to break down some of the barriers in our own community.

So, everyone seemed to get something from the weekend and left feeling that it had been most worthwhile. It is to be hoped that someone has the energy to organise a similar weekend in the not-too-distant future.