A designer by profession, I am also a qualified Spiritual Director for the Anglican Church. I trained on the three-year Encounter programme, run by the London Centre for Spiritual Direction, based in Lombard Street, London, where I was a staff member at the Centre before my move to Sussex. As a fellow traveller, I accompany people on their Christian journey, and see clients both in London and Sussex.

As a potter, I am fascinated by the healing properties that clay has to connect with people at a deep level when used in a contemplative way. It can help us focus on the present moment, relieve stress, or help us unlock and acknowledge past experiences buried deep within us. In a world where we are constantly ‘doing’, clay can help us connect with ourselves as human ‘beings’.

‘Prayer through Clay’ – Retreat Workshops

I lead ‘Prayer through Clay’ retreat day workshops for dioceses, parishes and retreat centres.

These workshops offer a practical opportunity to work with clay and to see how this expressive medium can enrich our prayer. Through clay we can be drawn into a deeper awareness and understanding of our individual faith journeys. The time spent in quietness together begins with an introduction to basic clay making techniques, which forms the first part of the retreat. We are all clay in the Potter’s hands.

The prayer tableau pieces I make in the series ‘Onward Journey’ are illustrations of my ‘Prayer through Clay’ work.

Working closely with your Parish or Community, I will set up and lead a ‘Prayer through Clay’ retreat workshop for your Church or Retreat Centre. The workshops can accommodate up to twelve people at a time. Workshop lengths can be tailored to suit, and no previous knowledge of working with clay is necessary. All clay materials and equipment are provided. Just come with a bible, an apron, a packed lunch – and an open mind.

I have run workshops for the London Diocese of Willesden, St Mary’s Church Kenton, as part of their Spirituality Development programme; for St Peter’s Church, Belsize Park, London; for St Andrew and St Cuthman, Steyning, West Sussex; All Saints Church Hove; The Community of St Mary the Virgin, Wantage and the Oxford Diocese. Also for St Paul’s Church Lorrimore Square SE17 London, and the Education Department Chichester Diocese, for Headteachers.

I am passionate about silence!

Tikkun Olam

‘Tikkun Olam’ – A broken Chalice, repaired, filled and offered. Onward Journey IV in the Prayer Tableau Series on solo exhibition at The Parish Church of St Andrew and St Cuthman, Steyning, West Sussex.

The Wind of Change

‘The Wind of Change’ – Onward Journey II in the Prayer Tableau Series on solo exhibition at The Parish Church of St Andrew and St Cuthman, Steyning, West Sussex.

Gods Springtime

‘God’s Springtime’ – Onward Journey III in the Prayer Tableau Series on solo exhibition at The Parish Church of St Andrew and St Cuthman, Steyning, West Sussex.

Tikkun Olam St Edmund the King

Prayer tableau ‘Tikkun Olam’ on solo exhibition – The Church of St Edmund the King, Lombard Street, London EC1

‘Prayer through Clay’ Retreat Day Workshop  – St Paul’s Church Lorrimore Square SE17

St Paul’s Church Lorrimore Square, SE17.

‘Prayer through Clay Retreat Day Workshop – Chichester Diocese Head Teachers.

Chichester Diocese Head Teachers.

‘Prayer through Clay’ Retreat Day Workshop – St Mary the Virgin, Kenton.

St Mary the Virgin, Kenton

‘Prayer through Clay’ Retreat Day Workshop – St Andrews Steyning

Setting up - St Andrews, Steyning

Setting up– St Andrews Steyning, West Sussex


“I attended the course 19 August 2015 and found it challenging – both artistically and spiritually and a resource for healing. The generous preparation and care offered by Mary throughout the day was a great blessing, which has remained with me. I learnt the possibilities of failure as I worked and reworked my lump of clay and through my frustration discovered that abandoning a goal beyond my capability is not shameful but a release into simplicity and joy.”

Felicity Prescott

‘Prayer through Clay’ Retreat Day Workshop – All Saints Hove

Hand crosses prayed into being

Hand crosses prayed into being


“It was great to have periods of quiet interspersed with music. The altar time was very special at the end.”

Luci Sale

Working and praying with clay and heart

Working and praying with clay and heart


“I was amazed by how much Mary taught us in such a short time.  All the tables were already laid out for us to start creating so we didn’t waste any time setting up and got straight in to learning and working with the clay.  Mary’s teaching style is very engaging.  The balance of teaching in the morning and quietly making your own pieces in the afternoon works really well.  This workshop left me wanting to do more with clay, it’s very satisfying and absorbing and I loved it.  And this is a very non-judgemental atmosphere where no one is looking to see if you’re talented in the clay-department or not.   I highly recommend it.

Debbie Garside

Prayer tableau Tikkun Olam on the altar -All Saints Hove

Prayer tableau ‘Tikkun Olam’ on the altar – All Saints Church, Hove


“I thoroughly enjoyed my time. Very informative. Lots of information and techniques given. Time passed all too quickly. I loved the feel of the clay. Very meditative and peaceful.

Thank you Mary, very much indeed.”

Sandy Petty

‘Prayer through Clay’ – Retreat Day Workshop, Community St Mary the Virgin Wantage

Community St Mary the Virgin, Wantage

Our prayer offering at the end of the day

“I don’t consider myself as a creative person and never do arty things. I was encouraged to attend by a friend and, although I was apprehensive, I found it enjoyable and God spoke to me really directly “out of the blue” in a way I had not expected, which was wonderful.  Mary is a gentle teacher and did not impose expectations, which helped me relax.  Thank you Mary.”


Mary Penley M. A

A member of The Community of Spiritual Directors – Central London Diocese
A member of the Network of Spiritual Directors – Chichester Diocese
A member of SDE – Spiritual Directors in Europe
Associate member of the Community of St John Baptist
Alumni St George’s College, Jerusalem


Biblical Mandate

Spiritual Direction is the contemplative practice of helping another person or group to awaken to the mystery called God in all of life, and to respond to that discovery in a growing relationship of freedom and commitment.  


If you would like to contact Mary, either about Spiritual Direction, or about running a Prayer through Clay Retreat day workshop, please email