Kindness, connection, and community at Bala Brook - Onespirit Ministers in Connection

Kindness, connection, and community at Bala Brook

Anne Cross in conversation with Rev. Nickie Aven8 September 2021

Kindness is at the very heart of Nickie Aven’s ministry deep in the beautiful lands of Dartmoor in SW England. I had a chat with her, interested in the work she is doing in co-managing the Bala Brook retreat centre, with it’s beautiful buildings and 25 acres of land. And wanting to know more about all that is happening there. I heard about the community, the creativity, the workshops and the space holding. It’s tangible that all that is profound in that place springs from the simple act of kindness.


Whether we are seeking rest, solace, spiritual nourishment or a quiet place to make a decision, a retreat centre can offer that space to step away from the familiarity of life, the constant demands that are thrown our way. Not to escape or hide from, but to deepen into the journey that we are on. Somewhere to make sense, to shine a light on our experiences, to look from a different perspective, to be still, in love. Spiritual retreats are an integral part of many Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian and Sufi communities……and many retreats are not part of any religious community at all – yoga retreats, mindfulness retreats, self directed retreats…… 

Nickie has felt called to this work since her own positive experience of retreating followed by some difficult years of dramatic changes and loss in her life. She brings a wisdom that only travelling the path of loss oneself can bring, and a grounded knowledge of the natural world and of the complex world of human suffering. Prior to being employed to manage Bala Brook, Nickie often hired the beautiful space there to run retreats for friends and peer ministers. Since the passing of her co-retreat leader and life partner, Neil, she is again leading retreats, especially around matters of loss & grief, healing and personal growth.  

Bala Brook with the natural beauty of it’s sacred land and the comfortable accommodation of the buildings, offers all that the weary pilgrim seeks.   With the choice of private retreat or more engagement through yoga, drawing, or deepening into the land, Bala Brook caters for all. The centre has been recently refurbished and aims to run on sustainable principles, recycling, composting and garnering energy from ground and air source heat pumps. The kitchen is vegetarian and wholesome. 

In these times of uncertainty and challenge, Nickie sees the need for sanctuary, the need to return to a knowing of the sacred within and without, connection to the land, to ourselves and to the community. She says that places such as Bala Brook are precious and should be accessible for everyone, especially those with particular needs; those with a terminal diagnosis, carers who need respite, those who grieve, children who are vulnerable or materially less well off and creative workshops for those with a diverse range of abilities.

Recognising that few people around the centre know she is a minister Nickie feels it not necessary to broadcast –  kindness, connection and community are her ministry and they are universal gifts. 

If you would like to know more, take a look at the website:

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