A huge increase in my workload and job insecurity hit me when October arrived. Stress and worry took a toll on my spiritual, physical and mental health. When I heard the Weekend Away for women from the 6.30pm congregation was coming, I didn’t hesitate to put my name down as I was desperate to get away.

Before heading to The Pines, I was worried about whether I would get along with the other fourteen ladies as I only knew some of them. Upon everyone’s arrival, there came cheesy nachos, spicy chilli con carne, followed by mouth-watering lemon drizzle cake and gluten-free ginger cake! While we were enjoying tea, we shared one interesting fact about ourselves. Can you guess who served Steven Hawking once in Cambridge? Who drinks 20 cups of tea a day? Who used to live in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (the longest name of a town in Wales)? I am grateful that good food and fun facts took the awkwardness out of introductions and put me at ease at the end of the first day.

You may wonder, given I was tired, why not stay in a spa hotel or solo travel for a weekend to enjoy ‘me time’? Instead, despite being an introvert, I chose to share a room sleeping in a strange bed and dine with a big group. It is because worshipping together is my deep desire, and it can overcome fear!

On day two and day three we had five sessions of Colossians Bible study in a cosy lounge. We were asked the following questions: What enabled Paul to persevere and even rejoice in the midst of his sufferings? What are the lies we are tempted to believe that cause us to doubt the gospel? What does a conversation ‘full of grace, seasoned with salt’ sound like? Through group discussions and reflections, highlighting the key words in Colossians 1:1-14, comparing the NIV and ESV of Colossians 4:2-6, sharing testimonies and struggles, receiving guidance and encouragement from others and singing hymns we were provided with a unique and powerful setting to reconnect with God and have fellowship with sisters in Christ.

We were also reminded that praying the scriptures for each other is a wonderful way to talk with God.

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honour and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

Colossians 1:9-10 (New Living Translation)

The weather was awesome on the afternoon of day two, so we decided to have a walk at Petworth Park, looking at different shapes of trees with bold colours of rustic reds, orange and yellow leaves. We were stunned by God’s creation when we walked through the parkland. But the best part was the amazing herd of deer that have been living in the park for over 500 years! It was great that we could enjoy nature and made deeper, more authentic connections at the same time.

The Women’s Weekend Away truly repaired, relaxed and revitalised me, not only from the outside, but also from the inside. I hope you feel the same!