On Saturday 18 April a regional Quaker event, ‘Quakers in Yorkshire’ was held at The Retreat. This event takes places three times a year at different venues across Yorkshire. We were delighted to host Quakers in Yorkshire here for the first time in recent history.
The event normally attracts around 70 Quakers, so we were stunned to see over 120 come through the door! People were very patient as we sought out extra chairs from all around the building in order to accommodate our guests.
The morning programme started with a half-hour Quaker meeting for worship. Presentations from Retreat staff and trustees followed. A brief history of the early days of The Retreat was covered, then a focus on the current work of The Retreat and The Tuke Centre (our community therapy / outpatient provision). One of our trustees spoke about the governance arrangements, and the formal connection with the Quakers in Yorkshire body, which appoints four of the members of our Company.
A further presentation gave a whistle-stop tour of Quaker approaches to mental health since the founding of Quakerism in the 1650s, leading to the growing concern amongst Quakers today to speak out about, and support those with mental health problems.
A lively question time followed in which several people spoke about the need to work with young people. The Retreat Chief Executive shared current plans to open an adolescent unit on site. When asked for a definition of mental health, one of the trustees recalled a phrase used at a recent Quaker weekend about mental health: ‘the ability to see the light within yourself and within other people’.
We were blessed with fine weather so many people ate their lunch in the nearby courtyard garden. Others enjoyed the comfort of our board room where they viewed various short films about The Retreat. Short tours were also available to look at The Retreat’s Quiet room and series of artworks produced in recent hospital-wide projects.
Consecutive workshops in the afternoon were very well attended and gave people the opportunity to take part in two smaller group discussions. Themes included: dementia awareness, mindfulness practice and its use in therapy, compassion focused therapy, Quakers and mental health, spirituality at The Retreat, further history of The Retreat, and tours of the Quaker burial ground on site. People who joined the latter had a chance to get a glance of our grounds at their very best in beautiful spring sunshine.
During the day, we also heard two testimonies about Yorkshire Quakers who had recently died.
People joined together for a short summing up of the day at 4pm, followed by tea. Despite not having enough cakes to go round (!), people seemed to leave with a sense of appreciation. Retreat staff and trustees were delighted to have such a strong show of support for our work, and a clear interest in wider issues related to mental health.