The main active work of the Sisters is to offer hospitality to those who want to “Come apart” for a while on retreat, or for a time of quiet. We were founded to provide a retreat house for women, the first of it’s kind, in 1866. By the example of Martha and Mary, of the Biblical house of Bethany, we try to maintain a balance of work and prayer, and offer hospitality as they did.
A number of Sisters have received training in Spiritual Direction, and different aspects of retreat work, which includes leading Quiet Days and preaching.
The House of Bethany itself is a resource for the parishes. The Sisters welcome those who join them in their daily worship in Chapel, they provide a prayerful environment for meetings of church groups of various kinds, parish away days, prayer groups and Julian meetings. The Sisters host a monthly programme of Open Quiet Days which always welcomes newcomers. The library is available to those who wish to use the resources and study – it houses the library belonging to the Portsmouth Diocese Readers’ Training Course.
In the 1980’s the Community was invited by the then Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Timothy Bavin, to be a praying presence within his Diocese, there being no presence of the Anglican Religious Life within the Diocese at that time. The House of Bethany was first opened in 1986, and since 1998 it has been the home of all the Sisters.
Each day the Sisters meet regularly in Chapel for the recitation of the Divine Office and for the daily Eucharist which provides the framework for their day. On most days they recite five Offices (Mattins, Terce, Midday, Vespers & Compline) and celebrate Mass (Holy Communion). They pray daily for the unity of Christians. On Fridays they keep a three-hour Prayer Watch in Chapel before the Blessed Sacrament, and in addition each Sister has her own special intentions. Each Sister makes the offering of herself in the hidden life of prayer within the Community in the belief that God desires and accepts that offering.
At the heart of each Sister’s vocation is a call to prayer, sharing in Christ’s work of reconciling humanity to God. Praying in the Spirit which unites us all to Christ and in Christ, for the wholeness of broken humanity, for the integrity of creation, for the peace of the world and for the Kingdom of God. As a Community we pray daily for the unity (not uniformity!) of Christians during the Midday Office litany. The intention of the Eucharist every Thursday is for Unity and is followed by our Office for Unity. We are committed to developing ecumenical relationships with other Christian Churches locally and internationally, with some interfaith dialogue.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity takes place each year between 18th – 25th January. It is co-ordinated by “Churches Together in Britain and Ireland”. There are many different Christian churches and denominations, but all have the same basic calling: to worship God, to share the good news about Jesus Christ and to work for the good of all people. So they often need to work together – and to coordinate the work they each do separately. When they do, they are acting as Churches Together.