The Open Cloister, established in 2005, is the name of the retreat programme the monastic community runs at Worth Abbey.
It has evolved and developed the retreat work the monastic community had been engaged with for a number of years through the ‘Centre of Spirituality’. The retreat programme is rooted in the Roman Catholic and Benedictine spirituality that is the foundation and inspiration for all that happens at the abbey.
Hospitality has always been an integral part of Benedictine monastic life. This has traditionally been a work undertaken by the monastic guestmaster. The monastic community wanted to open up the spiritual resources of Worth Abbey to a much wider spectrum of people than could normally be accommodated in the monastic guestrooms. It was also part of the vision that inspired the Open Cloister, that this ministry of hospitality would be undertaking on a collaborative basis, monks and laity working together.
Influenced by the success of the BBC TV programmes, ‘The Monastery’ and ‘Big Silence’, the Open Cloister has become a major interface between the monastery and the wider society beyond the Worth Abbey campus. With several hundred residential guests a year, together with many more day visitors, it is in a very practical and significant way, a work of evangelisation and outreach.