On August 7 (the day that new local restrictions were announced that made everything feel uncertain again) we opened our Retreat House doors to our first guests for over four months. It has taken a lot of preparation and planning to get to this point and we have had to endlessly re-visit government and hospitality industry guidance to ensure that our practice meets the COVID-19 secure criteria. Welcoming guests and offering hospitality is an important part of monastic life and feeling our way towards being able to resume this as soon as possible has been uniquely challenging in a time of pandemic. While the well-being of brothers, whose home this is, has been our primary focus, we have also had to take into account all our inter-relating site partners, as well as our staff and volunteers, who are now beginning to return to site in a limited way after months of absence.
It was a happy coincidence that, at about the time we were ready to re-open, we heard that VisitEngland, in partnership with the national tourist organisations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, had launched a UK-wide industry standard and consumer mark, ‘Good to Go’. It seemed a good thing to apply for so that we could pass on our confidence about re-opening to all our past and potential guests who might be wondering if they could now safely come and stay. After completing a detailed questionnaire about our risk assessment process and the measures we have taken to operate as safely as possible, we have now received our ‘Good to Go’ certificate.
We’ve only been open a few weeks, so it is still early days and we are not complacent about the future. Life with COVID-19 puts us all in a new situation. While it is not how we would like it to be we are learning to live much more with the possible and the provisional – to become aware that, in this place where attentiveness is encouraged, a few life-saving practices can, quite naturally, become part of that attention. While we have had to make some changes and introduce some restrictions, it has become very obvious, even in the short time we have been open, that it takes more than a pandemic to hinder the work of the Holy Spirit and that in the risen Christ something new and life-giving is always waiting to emerge. Come and see!
Barbara Clarke & the Guest Team
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