Case study

Deacons Retreat

The Diocese of London has been holding its annual three-day Deacons Retreat at St Katharine's for over five decades. St Katharine’s offers a quiet, contemplative space in the heart of London where candidates can escape the rhythm of their daily lives and prepare for their ordination.

Ordination is a life-changing moment, and the aim of the Deacons' Retreat is to take the candidates away from the routine of their daily lives and prepare them for this monumental step. The retreat runs for three and a half days, from Wednesday to Saturday. On Saturday afternoon, the candidates are taken to St Paul’s Cathedral to be ordained.

The idea of the Deacons' Retreat is to take the ordinands away to a place of safety and a place of space to listen to what God is saying and to put down the rhythm of their life before they become ordained. I can’t imagine an institution that’s better suited for hosting the Deacons' Retreat than St Katharine’s.

Paul Hullyer, Retreat Chaplain

Approaching Ordination is the culmination of many years of discernment, studying and training which represents a huge step in our faith lives. Like most peplum, I approached that transition with excitement and trepidation. St Katharine's provides tranquillity and space whilst retaining a connection to the real world that allowed me tot focus on what was important. St Katharine's' provides spaces to meet and spaces to be quiet.

Rev'd John Irwin, Ordinand

As the retreat is based around worship, the chapel at St Katharine's' forms the spine of activity. Throughout the retreat, a number of addresses are delivered by experienced clergymen or women. The ordinands are required to attend the addresses, but the rest of the time is their own.

People quickly spread out all over the area. There’s the gardens, the chapel, and their individual rooms, so they can go and find their own space to be quiet and they are not on top of each other. We are able to take over the whole space, which is really important to us. It’s a credit to St Katharine’s that we keep coming back.

Judy Barrett, Ordinands and Vocations Officer

The location of St Katharine’s is another reason the retreat keeps returning to the venue. It’s set in the area of London where the candidates will become ministers, which is important for grounding them with their future roles. Many of the candidates also enjoy getting out into the local area and going for walks or runs along the river. The Yurt Café is popular too.

The Yurt Café is a lovely addition. You walk from the oasis of St Katharine’s and there’s the Yurt, which is very buzzy but also very welcoming and very much part of contemporary London.

Judy Barrett, Ordinands and Vocations Officer
But it’s the level of hospitality and service provided by St Katharine’s that really makes it stand out. The Master and the staff are felt to be visible but not overbearing and are always available to solve any problem, big or small.

The level of grace and hospitality St Katharine’s show is what enables people to relax into the retreat. You can see the ordinands quickly relax into place. For me, St Katharine’s show Christian hospitality in a very straightforward, very honest and very loving way.

Paul Hullyer, Retreat Chaplain

The staff at St Katharine’s are very welcoming and attentive. It allows us to focus on the retreat and the reason we are there - because we know we will be cared for and supported. We don’t need to worry about anything.

Judy Barrett, Ordinands and Vocations Officer

At this year’s Deacons Retreat, the coronavirus pandemic brought new challenges. However, St Katharine’s were able to provide a safe environment for those attending in-person and facilitate a positive experience for those joining the retreat via Zoom.

I felt that, given the current restrictions, St Katharine’s went above and beyond the call of duty in providing not only a place where the candidates felt secure and safe, but also the technological knowhow and ability to ensure that we could allow people to join the retreat via Zoom and live-streaming. The staff were totally attentive to our needs and always willing to ensure that all was running smoothly. As such, the candidates – and myself – were able to relax into the retreat as good preparation for the ordination services the following weekend.

Paul Hullyer, Retreat Chaplain