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Christian Eco Retreat Newsletters

A view of the gardens at Emmaus House, Bristol

In Autumn 2008 ARC contacted 200 faithbased Retreat Centres in the UK, to ask if they would like to form an informal network to discuss ecological issues through a regular newsletter. The response was encouraging. Many centres are going along similar paths and facing similar issues, but there has never before been a network enabling them to learn from each other’s creative ideas about how to tread more softly on the earth.

The quarterly e-mail bulletins contained inspiring stories from retreats throughout the UK showing how, whether big or small, there are always many ways to address our carbon footprint while also promoting the spiritual importance of caring for creation.

Pressure on ARC's resources meant that, unfortunately, the bulletin took a break after Summer 2011. A round robin e-mail in early 2013, however, confirmed that there was still an interest in green matters around the retreat centre network so the bulletin was revived and a new edition circulated at Easter.

Link here for a list of faith retreat centres engaging in environmental activities
If you would like to receive future editions of the Christian Eco-Retreat Newsletter just let us know through our on-line contact page here.

Archive of Eco Retreat Newsletters

  • December 2013 News of a range of approaches to find more sustainable energy sources including hydro-electricity, wood-burning and biomass. And one vegetarian retreat that keeps a small flock of rescued sheep!

  • May 2013 Re-introducing the newsletter with a bumper crop of interesting developments including Minsteracres massive investment in a biomass boiler system, solar hot water and power generation helping costs and efficiency at Sheldon and the obvious benefits of a major insulation programme for a snowbound Dyffryn Farm.

    A healthy crop from the Minsteracres Peace Garden
  • June 2011 In this edition, we share some news of an award for Holland House, a BBC documentary about HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, forthcoming summer workshops at Buckfast Abbey, and eco guidelines.

  • April 2011 Includes information on an exciting nomination for Holland House near Pershore in Worcestershire; news from Ministeracres, Northumberland including their plans for bio-mass installation and the offer of a contemplative prayer day for young people at Glenfall House, Gloucester.

  • December 2010 With news and photographs of a wonderful new eco-house built by Othona Bradwell this year, and tips for any other retreat centre wanting to do the same. Also news from Holland House and Emmaus House in Bristol.

  • July 2010 Contains news of Hayes Christian Conference Centre creating an ethical food policy; A new website for Hilfield Friary – and a short video; Emmaus House Bristol showing children how to love Creation and Sarum College celebrating 150 years.

  • March 2010 News of how ARC's Generational Change Plan has encouraged Holland House to live in harmony with creation; St Bueno's - where the Jesuit Priest and poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, found inspiration; and exciting workshops focussing on ecology and the environment offered by Emmaus House.

  • September 2009 Includes news about composting and a Faith in Water Workshop at Sarum College; fruit and vegetable bonanza and wildlife at Whitchester.

  • March 2009 Featuring news from Emmaus House and Lee Abbey.

  • January 2009 With a story about Mill House Retreat's Reed Bed Grey Water System.

  • November 2008 The Carbon Trust re-thinks its policy on loans for faith retreats, and news of Ministeracres in County Durham.

    Key Areas where Faith Retreat Centres can act environmentally

    1. Buildings and Infrastructure

    Many retreat centres are looking at how to reduce the carbon footprint of their buildings, through solar, wind, geothermal, biomass boilers and other alternatives. The choices, implications and costs can be daunting, and the network has already been helpful in getting people to compare information. Lee Abbey, in the Exmoor National Park, is installing a new hydro-electric plant which will be a model for many of its neighbouring businesses in the Park. In 2007 Mill House in Devon installed a reed bed system to help it process grey water outfl ow from baths, showers and the kitchen sink. It cost around £10,000, but Mill House believes it will pay for itself in less than ten years, while decreasing the use of damaging chemical processes.

    2. Education

    At their General Assembly in 2006, the La Retraite Sisters chose “to encourage greater respect for the earth and a commitment to the sharing of its resources”. One of the educational programmes of their urban Bristol retreat centre, Emmaus House involved inviting 10-year-olds from a local primary school to celebrate Creation for a day, along the retreat centre model. They started in the Meditation Room “because kids love silence” and then explored the five different gardens. Each child was invited to bring something from the garden into the house. At the end of the day, the children prayed and several, unprompted, gave thanks for their stone or flower or snail, which they themselves had named.

    3. Pastoral Care

    People often go to faith centres when they are at their most vulnerable, or at least most open to change in their lives. Sometimes it is working in the gardens or in the kitchens that can be life-changing, as at Minsteracres in County Durham, where refugees and people with learning diffi culties come from Newcastle to develop fruit and vegetable gardens; sometimes centres simply offer the chance to think, undisturbed, about life and the wonder of creation. As a result of the newsletters some centres have increased their meditation materials about nature and the environment, and are promoting their green ideas on their website and in their buildings.

    4. Simpler Living

    Many retreat centres raise chickens and pigs, and have kitchen gardens to grow much of their food. The Soil Association’s 70-50-30 guidelines, that food should be 70 percent fresh, 50 percent local and 30 percent organic, have been useful. The issue that many centres realise they are facing is over-supplying: providing guests with too much meat, which is often wasted. Three years ago a guest asked the Methodist International Centre (MIC) in London whether their eggs were free-range. The immediate answer was “no”, that it was too expensive. But the question came before the MIC Board, which decided that kindness in sourcing should be part of its ethos.

    5. Media and Advocacy

    Many centres have been models of environmental care for years, but have not been telling anyone about it. We hope, through this initiative, to help such centres think through how they can use their own networks. This leafl et, for example, happened because Morley House in Derbyshire said they wanted to advertise the newsletter more widely.

    5. Networks and Partnerships

    In its first month, the newsletter reversed the Carbon Trust’s policy to exclude small religious-run organisations from the list of groups qualifi ed to apply for zero interest loans. There will, no doubt, be many other benefi ts to this informal network: if you’re not on it already, please write to to join the list.

    6. Celebrations

    Holland House, in Gloucestershire, is so inspired by the ideas the network is generating, that it is hoping to hold a food festival to enjoy the local foods - asparagus and plums for example - grown in the fertile Evesham Vale, and to celebrate the sacred elements of this right relationship with Creation.


    More details about the Eco Retreat Centres involved in the UN-ARC 7YP.

    Leaflet on the Eco-Retreat Initiative. .

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