April 4, 2022

Lessons from a Retreat - Part 1

Recently, the Vestry of All Saints’ Phoenix gathered for a one-day retreat that I was honored to lead. Without discussing any specific comments, I’d like to share with you the essentials of the retreat, and invite you to gather with your Vestry to create a vision for the future.

Now, more than ever, as we emerge from a pandemic that still lingers and face the prospect of an expanding war in Europe, we must create a powerful vision for the future that calls our congregations forward into new life.

In Part 1, we’ll discuss the logistics and the way we framed the conversation. In Part 2, we’ll review the structure we used to guide our visioning.

In years past, the Vestry truly “retreated” to a location a couple of hours away. This year, we drove about 15 minutes to the Cathedral. There’s an advantage to each type of retreat.

If you can plan far enough in advance, going further away – preferably for an overnight retreat – enhances the experience. It immediately creates a distinction between the day-to-day world and the world of the retreat. That separation helps people to focus on the business at hand, and to more quickly let go of the cares and worries they face at home.

On the other hand, having a retreat a short drive from your parish church usually allows more people to participate, and to do so without having to make any special arrangements.

The least desirable situation is to have the retreat at your own church. There is a high probability that you’re going to be interrupted, and it simply won’t feel like a retreat. It will feel like a Vestry meeting that never ends!

We began with four scriptural references, which I identified as essential to form the foundation upon which we would build the vision. Knowing that our foundation is built on the word of God gives us confidence that it is unshakable.

The scriptures we used were:

Proverbs 29:18
Where there is no vision, the people perish.

Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Ephesians 3:20
Glory be to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; Glory be to God from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus the Lord.

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Why these particular scriptures?

  • Proverbs tells us of the importance of having a vision, and that it is literally life-giving.
  • Jeremiah declares that God’s plans for us are good; they include prosperity, protection, and hope.
  • Ephesians is particularly meaningful to me because it shows us two essential things: 1) God’s power is beyond our imagining, and: 2) that this promise is meant to be passed down from generation to generation.
  • Philippians speaks to our empowerment to do ALL things through the Son of God.

You certainly don’t have to use these particular passages for your retreat, but I highly recommend that you select 3 – 5 scriptural references that are deeply meaningful to you, in order to set the frame for your conversations.

Realize that it’s not enough to simply recite scripture passages. As I said to the Vestry, their job is to make these biblical verses come alive for the people of All Saints’, to infuse each conversation with these words, either literally or figuratively, so the conversation about our future becomes grounded in God’s word.

This alone is a huge commitment, one that I hope you will undertake. I can tell you that starting a retreat in this fashion radically alters the how people listen and respond during the day.

Look for Part 2, in which we’ll review the structure that we used to guide the day’s conversations.