Copyright © The Retreat Association | registered charity no. 1150792 | Company limited by guarantee 08385106. Registered in England and Wales.
Helping you explore and deepen your journey with God through retreats.
Who we are
We are very grateful to each of our patrons for their generosity in lending support to our work. They share with us a passionate belief in the value of stillness and silence and their involvement will be a great encouragement to those who seek to deepen their faith journey through retreats and reflective activities.
Dr Rowan Williams
Rowan Douglas Williams was born in Swansea, South Wales in 1950, into a Welsh-speaking family, and was educated at Dynevor Comprehensive School in Swansea and at Christ’s College Cambridge where he studied theology. He studied for his doctorate at Wadham College Oxford, taking his DPhil in 1975. After two years as a lecturer at the College of the Resurrection at Mirfield, near Leeds, he was ordained deacon in Ely Cathedral.
From 1977, he spent nine years in academic and parish work in Cambridge and was ordained priest in 1978. In 1983 he was appointed as a Lecturer in Divinity in the University, and the following year became Dean and Chaplain of Clare College. 1986 saw a return to Oxford as Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity and Canon of Christ Church; he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1989, and became a Fellow of the British Academy in 1990.
In 1991 Professor Williams accepted election and consecration as Bishop of Monmouth and in 1999 he was elected Archbishop of Wales. In 2002, Archbishop Williams was confirmed as the 104th bishop of the See of Canterbury: the first Welsh successor to St Augustine of Canterbury and the first since the mid-thirteenth century to be appointed from beyond the English Church.
Lord Williams is acknowledged internationally as an outstanding thinker, writer, scholar and teacher. His more than two dozen books cover a very wide range of related fields – philosophy, theology (especially early and patristic Christianity), spirituality and religious aesthetics. He is also an accomplished poet and translator.
Rowan’s interests include music, fiction and languages. In 1981 he married Jane Paul, a lecturer in theology. They have a daughter and a son.
Rowan Williams is a great supporter of the work of retreat centres and has contributed articles to the Retreats handbook.
Father Christopher Jamison OSB
Born in Melbourne, Australia in 1951, Father Christopher was educated in England and holds degrees in Modern Languages, Philosophy and Theology. After becoming a member of the Benedictine community at Worth Abbey, he was ordained priest in 1978. He was Headmaster of Worth from 1994 until 2002 when he was elected Abbot of Worth.
In 2005, Worth Abbey was The Monastery on BBC TV, attracting audiences of between two and three million viewers. He has subsequently appeared on a variety of radio and TV programmes around the world. In October 2010, he presented The Big Silence, a BBC TV series that followed people going on retreat and building meditation into their daily lives.
Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life was published by in 2006, with 12 foreign language translations published to date. Finding Happiness: Monastic Steps for a Fulfilling Life was published in 2008.
In 2010, he stepped down as abbot and was appointed Director of the Catholic Church’s National Office for Vocation based in London.
Christopher was a speaker at the Retreat Association Conference in 2008 and The Big Silence was also a major topic for discussion at the 2012 Conference.
Margaret Rizza studied at the Royal College of Music, London and at the National School of Opera, London, and continued her training in Siena and Rome, Italy. She sang professionally for 25 years, under the name of Margaret Lensky. She has sung at many of the leading operatic venues and under such conductors as Benjamin Britten, Igor Stravinsky and Leonard Bernstein. She then went on to teach singing at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, from 1977 to 1994.
In 1986 she dedicated herself to the work of spirituality and to the wider aspect of music in the community. She has worked on many outreach projects taking groups of students to share their music with people in prisons, hospitals, hospices, inner city schools, MS centres, blind schools and working with people with physical and learning difficulties. During this time she began her work in the field of spirituality working with The World Community for Christian Meditation leading many retreats, prayer and music days and vocal and choral workshops.
She began composing in 1997, her contemplative choral music being widely acclaimed not only in the UK but also abroad. She has given many seminars and conferences featuring her music across the world as well as leading many choral and vocal workshops in this country.
Her works include Sanctus Dominus, O Magnum Mysterium and Ave Maria.
Revd Graham Sparkes
Graham was born in Waterlooville, Hampshire in 1956, and grew up in the London area. Having studied philosophy at the University of North Wales, Bangor, he then worked for the Methodist organisation now called ‘Action for Children’, before studying theology at Regent’s Park College in Oxford and entering the ordained ministry within the Baptist Union of Great Britain.
Graham served two pastorates at Horfield Baptist Church, Bristol, and at Christ Church Baptist, Kings Langley, before working for 12 years at Baptist House, with responsibility for the Faith and Unity Department. This included national and international ecumenical engagement, and work on current social and political issues. In 2011 he became President of Luther King House Educational Trust in Manchester, an ecumenical partnership for theological education.
Graham is married to Lisa and they have two children. For many years, he served as a Trustee of Christian Aid and has also been a long-standing member of the Baptist Union Retreat Group. As a result of studying for an MTh in Christian Spirituality at Heythrop College in London, Graham developed a particular interest in the relationship between art and faith, and has co-authored God and the Art of Seeing: visual resources for a journey of faith.
Graham joined the planning group of the Retreat Association 2012 Conference, in which he took a key role as speaker, sharing his insights on the subject of desert spirituality through images from the art world.
The trustees of the Retreat Association are responsible for the governance of the organisation and for guiding its vision and mission. They work with the Director to develop the overall strategy of the Retreat Association.
The trustees are unpaid volunteers and meet four times a year, some also serving on sub-committees to provide additional support for the work of the organisation.
Revd Liz Baker
Revd Martin Davies
Revd Ian Green (Chair)
Sr Diane Reynolds
Roger Seaton (Treasurer)
Alison is the Director of the Retreat Association, with overall responsibility for the leadership of the charity. Alison has a professional background in book publishing and the charity sector. She is also a trained spiritual director and leads quiet days and retreats.
Alison describes her role as ‘A great challenge – we will never quite know the effects of the work we do. It's very much a journey of faith – and one I feel privileged to be involved in.’
Iain is the Administrator for the Retreat Association, with overall responsibility for the day-to-day running of the office.
Iain has a background in office administration, having worked for insurance companies and other Christian Charities and Churches. Iain is also a trained Children's, Families and Youth Worker and has 15 years of experience in this area.
Margaret responds to our website enquiries concerning spiritual direction and retreats and is Secretary to the Catholic Network for Retreats and Spirituality, supporting the administration of their annual conference.
She lives in central London and is part of a group in the RC Diocese of Southwark seeking to raise the profile of spirituality, retreats and spiritual direction within the Catholic parishes.