Retreats Beyond Dover based at St Etheldreda's Church, Ely Place, Holborn, London began in 1995 with the aim of providing opportunities for people to make retreats, rather than pilgrimages, abroad.
A retreat is intended to be time away ("Time out - with God"), offering refreshment for the body, mind and spirit and a retreat abroad provides the extra stimulus of contact with a different culture.
We are challenged, away from normal routines, to move forward and inward, in new ways, so that hopefully we might return a little more open to grace.
As a Roman Catholic enterprise, based at Britain's oldest Catholic parish church, Retreats Beyond Dover uses Catholic retreat houses and monasteries, and provides for a Catholic chaplain on each retreat. People from other religious backgrounds sometimes contribute as members of the retreat-giving team and all are welcome as retreat members.
The retreat programme is based each day on morning prayer, Mass, retreat talk and evening/night prayer. In addition there is a programme of excursions to places of religious and cultural interest and wherever possible involvement in some local community activity.
Members of each retreat are encouraged to "opt in" and "opt out" of activities such as excursions, to allow maximum free time and space for private reading, relaxation and exploration of the area around the retreat house.
The word "retreat" contains the word "treat" and on a retreat holiday we aim to include space for lively conversation, fun and laughter. Spain and Italy are, in particular, cultures of celebration, where puritanism is mercifully unknown. We believe very firmly that a retreat where "strangers" have come together for conversation and companionship in an inspiring place can well be the focus for experiencing the movement of God in our hearts.
British visitor are often very favourably impressed by the high standards of accommodation and food in retreat houses abroad. Retreats Beyond Dover deliberately chooses retreat houses which are "off the beaten track", in places not usually associated with religious pilgrimage, and therefore encourages retreat members to be in sympathy with local culture, for example travelling with dictionary/phrase book to make an effort with the local language. "When in Rome ..." is useful. Meal times in Spain will be later than those we are used to. The kettles and tea-making alcoves found in British retreat houses will be lacking, but the compensations are wonderful!