The Story of the Quiet Garden MovementThe first Quiet Garden opened at Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire, England in September 1992, but the story began long before that. Quiet Gardens are the vision of Philip Roderick, an Anglican priest working in the Diocese of Oxford, England.
It began in South Wales when Philip, about 14 years old at the time, was on holiday with his family. He went for an evening walk alone up the cliff path and was suddenly aware of a different reality, a depth to things of which he had previously been unaware. This experience lasted for about half an hour. Afterwards he returned to his family, outwardly the same, but inwardly transformed. He later found out that it was the site of a monastic settlement.
The Seed is Sown
In 1974 he felt drawn to his Welsh roots and journeyed to St David's. Here, on the spray swept beaches, ancient cliffs and ruined St Non's Chapel, he was the archetypal pilgrim, trusting implicitly that "all shall be well", knowing simply that he was meant to be there and that God would work things out. Here he encountered an amazing woman, named Lilian Jones, who consistently opened the door of her heart and her home to individuals she met around the city. Here the vision slowly began to form within: a network of pilgrim centres, a lattice work of prayer and hospitality, comfort for weariness, laughter for enlightenment, nurture for the quest. The seed took eighteen years to bear fruit from the dark fertile earth of vocation, failure and success, aspiration and anxiety. A three month sabbatical, spent partly in India and partly in the USA, enabled Philip to articulate the vision fully.
The Vision ...
At the time he was Director of the Chiltern Christian Training Programme in the Diocese of Oxford and he shared his dream of such a community with students on a Contemplative Discipleship course he was leading. These students were busy people, who sensed that there had to be more to Christianity than activity and that there was indeed a beauty in the stillness they wished to realise. They knew they were ready to engage with the contemplative dimension of the gospel: the "being" part of "human being", or to put it more colloquially, "Don't just do something, sit there!" One day while enjoying the peace of his own garden it occurred to him that what was needed for this simple ministry of hospitality and prayer was a home and garden - there was no need for expensive premises.
... and the Reality
In the early Summer of 1992 Philip mentioned the need for somewhere to begin. Almost immediately a house was offered! The generosity of the owners in "lending" part of their gracious home provided the ideal context for the pilot venture at Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire, near the church where Thomas Gray wrote his "Elegy in a Country Churchyard". He felt led to call this venture "The Quiet Garden", after a line in a poem he wrote as a teenager, "a falling flower in a quiet garden". It soon became clear that this simple idea of low-cost retreats or step-aside time in people's homes and gardens could be replicated anywhere in the world.
Since that first Quiet Garden opened in September 1992, the ministry has grown steadily. Soon after, following visits to USA and Canada by Philip, a number of Quiet Gardens opened in those countries. Since people in Australia, New Zealand, Africa and India as well as Europe have offered Quiet Gardens. Who knows where the next Quiet Garden will be?
The Movement celebrated its tenth anniversary on 2002 with a one day conference in West Sussex at Worth Abbey, which has its own Quiet Garden. About 200 hundred people gathered in the Abbey Church on that occasion.
In 2007 it celebrated its fifteenth anniversary with a series of three one-day conferences at Quiet Gardens in different parts of the country, in Berkshire, Worcestershire and Yorkshire.
The concept has spread to include quiet spaces in churches, schools, hospitals and most recently prisons.