Sometimes a person needs a story more than food.
– Barry Lopez
At a retreat there is permission to come hungry for silence and soul food, there is space in the day to escape distraction. For years I have resisted the mantle of the storyteller as entertainer or stand-up comic, and I have finally found my favourite format for telling stories – storytelling retreats.
People bring the kind of attention to a retreat where story can thrive.
Retreats offer the listeners room for their own reflection and response, for discovering where their story meets other stories. It’s not about being self consciously holy, it’s about being present. It may involve laughter, tears, shyness, solidarity, it depends what people bring.
I am very confident that we can be in conversation with story – whether sacred story, traditional tales, poetry or lived experience. I often weave a combination. The spaciousness of a retreat day allows time for stories to resonate and do their own work.
I woke up to this when I worked with teenagers as a high school chaplain. I know a very powerful traditional story called ‘The Black Prince’ about a boy who gives his identity away in the quest to be acceptable. The responses were so strong I used to invite the young people to move out of the story in silence and to write their own letter to the Black Prince. The letters were heartfelt and sometimes astonishingly insightful. Sharing them was voluntary.
I now offer retreats as a format in themselves. For adults, for young people, for children, for organisations.
There is something rich and real about being able to offer stories from the heart and tell them by heart. George Steiner says this generates ‘a shaping reciprocity between ourselves and that which the heart knows.’
I love to tell stories to people who know we do not live by bread alone.
I also love that stories, silence and listening can embolden us to speak up for those who have no bread.
I have been offering storytelling retreats periodically over the last ten years, they have now become my favourite format. Below you will find some testimonials and there is information on how they are organised here.
– Julie Perrin
…an amazing effect; the calm that settled on the room was palpable.
– Helen Rowe, Team leader, local government MCH Service
We have invited Julie to host retreats for Senior School Chaplains over a number of years because the feedback is unequivocally positive – people want her back again and again! She leads participants gently through stories and carefully crafted rituals that invite them to slow down and reconnect with their deeper stories. She tailors a retreat specifically for the audience and is responsive and flexible, offering deep wisdom and rich material for reflection.
– Sarah Lockwood, Schools Project Worker, Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania
As busy women wearing many hats, we treasure our retreat times with Julie. Julie has the ability to use story-telling, poetry, sacred scriptures, reflection as an invitation to stop, centre and enter another space, a deeper place within.
– Sr Monica Walsh, Province Leader, Sisters of the Good Shepherd