On Monday of this week we were invited to visit the Nicholaston House - a Christian retreat center nearby on the Gower peninsula in Wales. Our church connections here have been keeping us busy and we love it!
Nicholaston House provides space for church retreats, hosts eating disorder treatment courses, and other prayer and spiritual centering workshops. The original house was built in the 1880's, added onto in the 1960's, then purchased and turned into the center in 1998, which means they just recently celebrated their 20th anniversary! We were able to tour the space and hear about the ministry they do there and it was incredible.
When you first walk into the building, this is the view that greets you. I immediately did feel a sense of peace, and could tell that is a feeling they work hard to cultivate and provide for people here. Despite the many volunteers fluttering about getting work done (Monday is the big volunteer day) there was still a sense of quiet and rest.
As we moved into the official entryway, my eye was caught by this beautiful wall hanging. It was created by several women who participate in the center, and it captures the view of the house when you look up at it from the bay. When I looked closer I was impressed with the level of detail and care that went into this creation.
Our hostess took us upstairs to show us some of the guest rooms that are available. I didn't take pictures of the accommodations as they were in the middle of being cleaned, but they are cozy, clean, and comfortable. I would love to stay in one of them. Really, it's not important that I show the rooms at all because the most important part is the view! Look at this picture I took through one of the large picture windows in one of the rooms.
I mean, can you even imagine waking up to that in the morning? How stunning! I could sit and read a book and look out that window all day long. Seriously gorgeous and very conducive to any kind of spiritual retreat. After we looked at a few rooms we went downstairs to what turned out to be my favorite room in the whole house - the conservatory. I wanted to sit and read and look out the windows all day! Well here one could do just that even without renting a room!
Not only are the views of the bay beautiful, the gardens of the Nicholaston House are also amazing. Among the gardens they have several bird houses set up, so the conservatory is a great place to sit and bird watch. They even provide binoculars for visitors to use! The garden also has a prayer walk set up throughout - 12 stations you can walk to and they provide a guide with scripture and reflections for each spot. We did this walk but I will share about it in a separate post.
After we spent the morning touring the house and completing the prayer walk in the garden, we were invited to share in lunch and worship with the other volunteers. Lunch was leek and potato soup (yum!), sandwiches (including a curried chicken salad that was amazing), and the most amazing fudgy brownies.
Once everyone was finished eating the group of 20 or so people gathered into a circle for a brief time of worship and prayer. We read from scripture, sang a few hymns, and most of all prayed - for the house and its future, for everyone who would be arriving in the coming week for a retreat, for God to continue to work in this place and through these people. It was beautiful and moving to be a part of, and it was clear that this is a weekly ritual here.
After lunch we went for a walk outside and chatted with some of the volunteers. One person was working on recreating an old stone wall - removing the stones, cleaning them, then placing them back where they were, making the wall sturdy and ready to last another hundred years. You can really see the difference where he has worked! Another volunteer was younger like Joel and myself, and we really connected with him. He took us on another adventure that afternoon (I'll write all about it soon!) and we are planning to go check out a castle tomorrow!
It was seriously an amazing day overall, and I have several more blog posts to write to share all about it. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the Nicholaston House you can check out their website here. They are working on a capital campaign to improve the building and grounds so they can do even more ministry in the future, so if you feel moved to donate, please do!