"These words invite us to enter more fully into the depths of God's infinite life. A monastery is a place where our hearts are gradually being transformed into the likeness of God. This is the simple goal of the monastic life."
So reads the invitation on the home page of www.minsterabbeynuns.org – confirming that Saint Mildred's Priory, Minster-in-Thanet, is a place where the timelessness of monastic life and worship meets the benefits of modern technology in linking that lifestyle with the outside world.
The dozen or so sisters at the Priory (popularly known as Minster Abbey, but not to be confused with the place of the same name at Minster, Isle of Sheppey) tend their gardens, grow food and care for livestock, welcome and look after a succession of guests – both Christian and secular, individuals and groups – all the time maintaining the rhythm of daily prayer and worship which continues largely unchanging year by year according to the calendar of the church seasons.
For many years now, small groups of Methodists from the Sittingbourne and Sheerness area and some friends from further afield have been coming here for a weekend of refreshment every spring. This year we were blessed with glorious May sunshine and the Abbey gardens were a blaze of rainbow colours. We were accommodated as usual in the guest house, which with the recent addition of the Bethany wing (comprising a large meeting room, kitchen and a ground floor accessible bedroom for a guest with limited mobility) offers a comfortable space for our planned devotional and activity sessions.
Devotions and worship were led this year by members of the group around the theme "Walking with Jesus – every step of the way". Besides this, we are encouraged to share in the worship (the regular daily "Offices" at set times) of the sisters in their peaceful and beautiful chapel, filled with flowers and wood carvings and with a view of great trees waving their branches beyond the high windows. This worship follows a regular pattern which can be mystifying at first, but those who have been coming for a while find they are able to join in the sung responses and chanted psalms. The sisters are delighted that we choose to join them in this way and kindly ignore any mistakes (in standing and sitting at appropriate times, for instance), but no concessions are made to the presence of visitors. The worship is as it is, and if that's the kind of thing you like, you will love it, as we do.
We are already looking forward to next year's refreshment weekend and places will be limited as always. Please ask Margaret Bowerman (The Church in Hope Street, Sheerness) if you would like to know more.
More photos in The Gallery