Quiet cityGood news should come with a drum roll surely? When news is actually good, it should grab attention and make us all feel positive about life. But when the good news comes as a whisper, unexpectedly, perhaps even as a secondary meaning of what is heard, it is both precious and perhaps overlooked.

In Luke’s account of the passion there is a whisper of good news that was heard contemporaneously, but it is hard to spot. Jesus is condemned to death, nailed to a cross between two other dying men. Looking back we can see good news, he was reconciling the world to God in love, but at the time?

There was a spark of hope. One man at his side said ‘Remember me when you come into your Kingdom’. If he said ‘when’ and not ‘if’, then he was speaking good news. And these were the only words of resurrection hope that Jesus heard. At the point of Jesus’ absolute weakness and abandonment, the word of life is spoken to the dying Son on God.

We took this theological reflection from David RhodesFaith in Dark Places as the focus for February’s ‘Four Seasons in Harehills’ retreat. We reflected together on our experience of the good news of Christ coming to us as a whisper, just a fragment of hope. And we also read together a short play Tale of Two Thieves written by Tom Lusty and Steve Palmer which helped us enter into the experience of the story. This is to be found under Resources if you would like to look at it. We took this focus with us in the hour and a bit we spent outside on retreat.

It is countercultural to come on retreat in Harehills, an area scoring highly on criteria of multiple deprivation. It would be more usual to be in the countryside or a centre that is warm, a prayed-in space, perhaps beautiful or old. But we choose to be outside in a place that not many choose for spiritual refreshment. Lots of people live here, work or shop here, visit friends and family, but it is not well known as a retreat destination. Our group comes together each month and experiences God here. We don’t take an attitude of ‘looking on the bright side of life’, but we are content to be in God’s presence here, with an awareness of people and place. We find inspiration in the bricks and mortar aspect, the natural aspects of trees and parks, hills and geography, and the human presence in in the diversity of people and the busyness, smells and noises of the area.

If you want to join us next month, we meet at 10am on Wednesday 25th March at Trinity United Church, Banstead Terrace, Harehills LS8 5PX