The past year at the Coach House has been a fruitful one with many new and exciting developments. As you will recall, we re-opened the Coach House in the summer of 2016 and we spent the rest of that year settling in and enjoying the gifts of a newly expanded house, a new team of staff and volunteers, and a new programme of events. The “bedding in” process continued right throughout 2017 – our first full calendar year in operation.
Here are some of the highlights that we would like to share with you.

We were delighted to be able to offer a full and varied programme in 2017, from the early spring right up to, and including, our first ever Christmas retreat. In addition to some of our regular retreats such as Easter and Advent, we were able to welcome individuals and groups to various guided and themed retreats, some led by members of the house team with others led by guest workshop leaders. It was a joy to welcome many “old” friends as well as many new visitors during the year. Many of our “returning” visitors would comment on how familiar, and yet how different, the newly refurbished Coach House felt to them, and we delighted in the positive comments about the new sanctuary, the en-suite bedrooms and the upstairs art and craft room. One or two of our guests lamented the passing of the “washing up ritual” at the end of meals, but understood that hygiene regulations meant that a few of the “old” Coach House ways had to come to an end.
The Coach House relies on so many individuals who offer their time, skills, wisdom and experience to the various tasks of keeping a small retreat house fully operational. 2017 was no different. Ruth continued as the full time Co-ordinator supported by Ian Bonner-Evans in his part-time role as Assistant Co-ordinator. We were grateful for the support of our other core team members and a growing number of volunteers. These continue to be a hugely valuable resource, and we are so grateful to each and every one of them! Some came for a week, others a fortnight or a month. We also had some volunteers who were able to be with us for more than one block of time during the year.
Other important developments included the appointment of three new trustees – we now have nine trustees on our Board, the production of various new policies and procedures including a new Constitution, and the creation of a new website (www.coachhousekilmuir.org). We also became a “SCIO” (Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation), an important change in our legal status as a charity. Whilst many of these changes are unlikely to set the heather alight (!), they are nonetheless very necessary to ensure the long-term position of the Coach House.

A New Year with New Opportunities

And what about the coming year? 2018 promises to be another year of growth and opportunity, a time of hope and potential for us here in Kilmuir. Our team continues to develop and expand. Ian has agreed to work full time for the year alongside Ruth, to help her address the increasing demands of running the Coach House, and Michael (Hickford) will join us as a part-time core team member. Claire (Starr) has also offered to increase her involvement as part of the core team. We are delighted that many of our volunteers have agreed to return to help us again this year, and we are excited at the prospect of welcoming some new volunteers to the team.

We have a full and comprehensive programme for the year which we hope will appeal to many people from a variety of backgrounds and traditions. Mindful of our desire to be an open house available to all those who are “seeking” or “searching”, we hope to make full use of Ian’s training as a OneSpirit interfaith minister. Our experienced team continues to offer Ignatian retreats across the year with the additional rare opportunity to make a 30day retreat with the Spiritual Exercises in the Autumn.
Nancy Adams is returning in June to provide a 5 day Workshop on ‘Weathering Well: Growing Older gracefully into Spiritual Elderhood’. Following last Autumn’s successful ‘HerSpace’ weekend retreat for women, Valerie Allen will be leading two further retreats:
‘HerPower’ in March and ‘HerBeauty’ in June.
Please look at our website for more information about all the events on our programme, and don’t delay in getting in touch if something appeals to you – some of our really organised friends have already booked to stay with us in 2018, and we are also seeing an increase in new enquiries from people!

The Challenges Ahead

Whilst we are grateful for all the blessings that we have received – and continue to receive – we are also very mindful of the various challenges we continue to face in keeping our small retreat house open and available to everyone. It is a constant struggle for us to keep our costs at a reasonable level – we want as many people as possible who want to come here to be able to do so – but financial viability remains an ongoing concern. We are very grateful to many of you who support us through regular giving, both financially and otherwise, however the Board of Trustees will need to spend a significant part of this year addressing our financial future and staffing needs. We hope to develop our “Friends of the Coach House” network, and produce a leaflet to encourage some of our supporters to think about leaving a legacy where possible. A major item on the agenda will be to look at how we might be able to develop The Steadings. We will endeavour to keep you informed of ongoing developments as they progress, but please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you think that you can help us.

We live in very difficult and challenging times, with so many of our fellow human beings facing struggles of various kinds.
We firmly believe that our world needs places such as the Coach House, and it is a privilege and a delight for us to be able to play a small part in
what this “Thin Place” seeks to offer. We offer you our sincere thanks for your ongoing support of the Coach House and its essential work, and we hope that we are able to welcome you here in the months to come.

we offer you this inspiring piece sent to us by a friend recently:

‘To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places-and there are so many-where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvellous victory.’ *

*Adapted from “The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear”, edited by Paul Rogat Loeb.

 

With blessings, David Sutton (Chairman) on behalf of the Board of Trustees