When we think of a retreat, we typically think seclusion, solitude, meditation.

But here at St. Philip’s the time had come for us to retreat, not only as individuals, but also as a parish—to support one another in personal growth, and, in turn, grow in community.

“We have what we seek, it is there all the time, and if we give it time, it will make itself known to us.”—Thomas Merton

After months of anticipation, 130 parishioners registered for November’s weekend-long event, aptly titled “From Interior Journey to Outward Mission.”

“Going to a retreat isn’t something I would have thought of doing in the past,” said Amirah Windlebleck, who has recently returned to St. Philip’s after living several years out-of-state. “Now that I’m back in Tucson I thought it would be a good way to get to know some other parishioners.”

Bill Roberts leads singingWayne Fulton said, “Simply knowing that Susan [Anderson-Smith] and Bill [Roberts] were the co-leaders was enough to attract me since I had known both of them when they were on staff. Couldn’t have been better choices. After the first session, it was clear that I would enjoy the rest of the weekend.”

Under the guidance of the Rev. Bill Roberts, former director of music at St. Philip’s, and the Rev. Susan Anderson Smith, former staff clergy at St. Philip’s and currently a member of the affiliated clergy, attendees broke into small groups and went on a journey: They crafted magazine collages illustrating their personal saints and heroes of faith, sculpted pipe-cleaner representations of their current ministries and callings, sketched Crayola vignettes about new ways they may be called to do Gods work, molded clay to identify what may need to happen to follow that authentic call, and discussed how to explore that sense of call.


They shared, laughed, danced and sang. They shared a Thanksgiving meal and painted Ben’s Bells. They tried yoga, drumming, and Tai Chi. They joined in a candlelit Compline and were moved, almost to tears, by a choral Evensong.


“If you are what you are meant to be, you will set the whole world on fire.”  – Catherine of Siena

Painting Ben's Bells“The greatest takeaway was a greater and growing sense of community,” Geri Smith said after the retreat. “The level of sharing in our small group was pretty honest and intense. That type of sharing is important to feel close to others.”

She added, “It’s difficult to grow in faith in a vacuum. Being in community and sharing lives, beliefs and experiences is how the church benefits.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Fulton said, “It really did help us to understand that church is more than Sunday morning, that it is community in the broadest sense.”

Drum circle

We Are One in Mission

Bill Roberts and Susan Anderson-SmithBut the big question now is: Where do we go from here?

For each of the attendees it may have inspired joining a new ministry or forming a new one.

In Amirah’s case, she’s volunteered to usher once a month, she’s involved in the re-launch of the Thank You ministry, and is looking forward to continued involvement with the 20s/30s/40s fellowship.

But as a parish, the answer is: Forward in Mission. Because the truth is, the journey has only just begun.

To see more photos from the November retreat, visit StPhilipsRetreat.weebly.com.

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