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Contemplative Community


I recently had a conversation with a young man who had just completed 10 days in absolute silence, meditating 10 hours a day. This was at a Buddhist centre in New Zealand. 60 people attended. Attendance was free (koha – donation).

Yes, there are places in New Zealand where you can go on a silent Christian retreat. When I searched “silent retreat New Zealand” the first 14 were Buddhist or Hindu. The first Christian mention was the 15th entry.

The Christian contemplative, spiritual tradition is little known – even by Christians and, sadly, even by clergy!

Only 58,000 people in New Zealand call themselves Buddhist, just over 1%. But if people discuss spirituality, or seek help to go on the inner, spiritual journey, it is much more often that Buddhism will spring to people’s mind and conversation, and obviously action, than Christianity.

I have looked on the website where the 10-day, introductory Buddhist course was offered. This is not just a once-a-year event. They have a couple of 10-day courses every month. There are 30-day courses. There are other courses. All in this one centre.

How is your own contemplative practice? How is the contemplative practice of your Christian community? Of your clergy? Would you be able to mentor someone in the Christian contemplative life? Would such a person find your community supportive and encouraging of a new person’s spiritual journey? How focused is our Christian community on sharing our inherited Christian contemplative tradition so that those seeking to embark on the inner, spiritual journey would look to Christianity at least as a viable option?

Signs of Hope


There will be signs of hope that spring to your mind (Taizé is a most obvious one that immediately springs to mind). Here is one I was delighted to see recently (ad above), organised by one of our tertiary chaplains, Rev. Joshua Moore (better known as “Spanky”):

Unplugged is a 3 day mostly silent guided retreat for young adults – with our Spring installment going from Friday 27th Nov 9am till Sunday 29th Nov 5pm. That means no cell phones (you’ll be asked to hand it in at the start), no facebook, and very limited time to talk. We’re not saying it’s going to be easy, we’re not even saying it’ll be fun! But for our hyper-connected generation we hope it will be a unique experience where you get to know God, and yourself, much better. The weekend will be lead by Spanky, and will include times of shared prayer and solo activities. We’re staying at the Ecolodge in Peel Forest – a secluded 20 person lodge that is close to being off the grid including composting toilets & solar power, and Peel Forest park is close by for walks during the days. If you choose to come to Unplugged we ask you to take the challenge of silence seriously for the sake of others who are coming along. We also ask that you make the commitment to come for the full time.

It’s been run a couple of times, both times with about 18 young adults. It’s a 3 day introduction to silence and stillness – 3-4 daily offices of prayer, plus optional meditations and practices. Contemplative practices included: Centering Prayer, Meditation, Lectio Divina, Daily Examine.

What do you think?

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11 thoughts on “Contemplative Community”

  1. Christopher Douglas-Huriwai

    When I was coming through as a Youth Minister in Tikanga Maori silent contemplative retreats were the norm.

    5 days of silence with hourly liturgies…the hardest part was eating in silence. Eating for Maori, and a lot of other cultures is a hugely social act and so to not talk was interesting, even more interesting than that though is the feeling that by not talking, we were actually more present with those around us than if we had been talking, a nice little divine irony.

    As Christian and indeed as Mihinare, we need to reclaim these practices that over the years we have abandoned, ignored, or just plain forgotten about.

    Am I naturally built for this type of life? Probably not. Do I think it has a place in our continued spiritual journeys? Absolutely.

    1. Thanks Christopher. That’s great this used to be the case. You are using the past tense – so has this practice stopped? If so: When? Why? I don’t know anyone who is “naturally built” for this, but I also think, like other disciplines, we can grow into this. Maranatha.

  2. I like the idea of quiet (and don’t do facebook or have an intimate relationship with my cellphone) but wonder how scriptural extended periods of it are. We are supposed to be in touch with God at all times because He, in his timelessness and graciousness, wants to be in touch with us.

    Looking back at Christ, Paul, the apostles, many great Christian men over history I’m struck by how intense they were, how full their lives were and how busy they were doing the Father’s work. This also applies to some missionaries I know of personally – hard lives in very testing places.

    I live near a Buddhist monastery and have a close friend who tends toward Buddhism but in the interactions I perceive a looking for something that requires much effort (and to no saving end) when Christ can retrieve the life of the most desperate and lost in a twinkling with no effort (but much relief and forgiven misery).

    So, maybe the issue is quality and not quantity? Three days sounds great but, being of a view God uses us to build each other up, I’d really like to have some interaction time and to hear what Christians got out of it at the end.

    1. Thanks, Brown. Scriptural extended periods of what you are calling “quiet” that immediately spring to mind are: Moses, Elijah, Jesus’ 40 days, possibly Gal 1:17, etc. Also “getting things out of it” is a mistaken approach to our contemplative relationship with God IMO. Maranatha.

  3. Thank you – interesting article. You might find another sign of hope in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s community at Lambeth Palace ( stanselm.org.uk ). Global applications for 2016-17 membershio open very soon for any Christian aged 20-35 (single or married, but can’t take children)

    1. Thanks, Anders. I agree with you (see here). It is that sort of thing I would love to see in New Zealand, laying a foundation of Christian leadership on contemplative lifestyle. Blessings.

  4. This is not new in New Zealand spirituality. I suspect the problem is just lack of SEO / marketing savvy (or even distrust of the same) by people running Christian retreat centres. If you google “catholic retreat new zealand” you’ll get plenty of options, with Christian ones at the top of the list. And even a few if you search for “anglican retreat new zealand”

    1. I followed your instructions, Mary, and soon got discouraged. Firstly, note that someone searching for “catholic retreat new zealand” is already clearer what they are looking for specifically (and certainly, within Christianity, it is the catholic tradition that has a stronger focus on spirituality). At the top of my search I got to St Francis Retreat Centre (I have made a retreat there myself). The website seems to indicate not so much that they provide retreats, but that you can use the facility. Next I got to New Zealand Retreat Centres. There was only one listed on my island. When I clicked on Te Waiora House I got to a page for sale. Next I got to Catholic Retreat Houses, New Zealand – Catholic Links. That page speaks volumes: it is blank! Next, thankfully, I got to the monastery of which I am an associate – Retreats & Accommodation – Southern Star Abbey Kopua. Certainly that is a place where you can grow in contemplative living. Maranatha.

  5. [The blog owner, Rev. Bosco Peters, writes: Thanks for the comment, Fr Ron. I thought the post, above, already went quite a way answering your question. For the specifics, I thought an offline conversation between you and Spanky more appropriate than one for all the world to see. I have forwarded your question to him, and leave to you both how you might proceed. If you decide together to make your shared discussion public – that may be welcome here. Another vehicle, of course, is for you to pursue your question via your own website. Maranatha.]

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