To live and minister in the tranquil and picturesque rural village of Forth in north-western Tasmania has been a wonderful blessing for me. As I gaze down the valley and across to Bass Strait, I thank God every day!
No two days are the same in this small spirituality centre. I am the sole resident, supported by an office volunteer one afternoon a week and a librarian who volunteers one day per week, so having a plan for the day is not necessarily how it will unfold.
Spiritual Direction is offered on a part-time basis by four female directors, two of whom live within half an hour of the Centre and one lives nearby. Formal spiritual direction is only one aspect of the larger canvas of spirituality in which we are involved every day.
Throughout the year we offer live-in retreats – directed, guided or private – at times that suit retreatants. We have en-suite accommodation for a maximum of two people at any one time. Of course, one’s cooking skills are hopefully enhanced with the variety of opportunities that come from frequent visitors and retreatants. One needs to have an assortment of “goodies” in the deep freeze in preparation for visitors, seminars and afternoon teas. It would be true to say that I’ve had a great deal more “chef” practice here than in my younger days. Along with being invited to trust as part of the spiritual journey I am frequently invited to take a “leap of faith” along the culinary highway!
Two of us have professional supervision training which has enabled us to offer individual supervision for chaplains in Aged Care; ministry students in training and other professionals. In a town approximately forty (40) minutes from the Centre we supervise a 90-minute Ministry Reflection group open to chaplains from aged care facilities, hospitals and ministers. This has continued for many years to nourish women and men involved in these ministries. It has developed to the extent that at times when the facilitator is unable to be present the group nominates an experienced person to take that role. The group has also decided to have a reflection day each year, showing a heart-warming experience and commitment to their ministry.
Another ‘day’ is the Monday monthly – “Spirituality in the Coffee Shoppe” 10.30am-12noon.
There is no booking…people just turn up from the various towns/villages, make a cup of tea or coffee, introduce themselves, find a seat and begin to share some of the issues around faith or Church or morality, that are of concern to them. This is quite a remarkable time as people from all walks of life and experience discuss what’s on their minds with quite some passion at times. We learn a great deal from this time of sharing our questions, experience, our struggles and our faith.
Some days people want a chat on the phone or a time to come and talk or invite you to meet them somewhere. Or it might be the gardener or the cleaner or librarian!!! These unplanned ‘moments’ invariably offer opportunities for friendliness and pastoral care and two of us try to respond to these requests whenever possible. I have come to realise more deeply that hospitality, attentiveness and care are a significant ‘underpinning’ for all that is offered here. God’s Spirit is at work through these expressions of love for one another. In the words of John O’Donohue: “in the kindness of care the Divine comes alive in us.”
Marg Chandler rsj