St. Catherine of Alexandria Episcopal Church

                                    Parish Retreat
                             September 28 - 29, 2018


This page offers some background on areas we may explore on the weekend. This is based on several conversations with the rector and lay leaders of the parish. As always, the work of the day may lead us in other directions.

Our time together will include individual reflection, as well as small-group and whole-group work. 

Overall Purposes of Parish Retreats

Generally a mix of:

  1. Helping to inform strategies and plans for the improvement of parish life & ministry. This is based on a process of reflecting on and learning about the whole, or some area of, parish life.
  2. Community building among parishioners.
  3. Spiritual development.
  4. Increasing the common understanding of parishioners for the work above.

Specific areas of interest for St. Catherine of Alexandria

1. Overall assessment of where the parish is at this point in its life, especially using lenses that fit with and nurture Episcopal culture and spiritual life.

2. Enjoy time together reflecting on our common life.

3. Provide additional informational to the rector and vestry about the parishes strengths and challenges. This will help inform work over the coming year.

Note: Elements may be changed as needed to work with issues that emerge in the course of the work.


Friday Evening: 6:00 to 8:30

A light meal will be provided. We'll a little time to get settled with our food before we begin the evening's work. 

We will spend Friday evening learning more about the key purposes of the parish church and reflecting on how we each enter into the primary rhythms of spiritual life. We will have an opportunity to look at how St. Catherine of Alexandria supports those rhythms and where might be areas for further growth. There will be individual and small group work, as well as some teaching time in the whole group.

End with Compline.

Saturday  Feast of  St. Michael and All Angels

8:30 - Coffee available

9:00 - We'll begin with Morning Prayer. Our first work session will then include assessments of parish life using the Life Cycle model.  Work will take place in small groups and in the whole group.

12:00 Eucharist

12:45 Lunch

1:45 Follow up on work from the morning

3:00 End

The working packet for the weekend

Ways of Working Together

To the extent the group can practice a couple of core communication skills, it is more likely to experience the process as effective. I've found the following to be particularly helpful:

-Speak for yourself and create space for others to do the same.  Identify your own needs, feelings, and concerns and be straightforward about them.  Knowing where the people in the room actually stand builds trust and generates energy.  Some phrases that may indicate you’re not speaking for yourself: “Most of us are really uncomfortable with X,” or “In this parish we could never consider stopping Y.”

-Listen for understanding.  Instead of automatically agreeing or disagreeing with another person’s comments, focus on whether you understand why they approach the issue that way or if there is any clarification that would be helpful to you.  Curiosity is a useful stance in developing the ability to listen.  Try to pay more attention to what’s being said in the moment and less attention to what you’re planning to say next.  Consider allowing a bit of time and silence before responding.

A Parish Life Cycle

A way of thinking about parish life over many years.  A PDF of the Life Cycle

Membership - issues of growth and stability

Background reading -- The Sunday Morning Experience; Evangelization; Deciding to be in community; Parish Size: Categories, Dynamics, and Issues; Six Growth Strategies; Three Growth Strategies

Spritual Life and Parish Size - It may be useful to consider what God may be offering us the numbers get smaller or larger or stay much the same. A PDF

An Incorporation Assessment -- Welcome/First Contact - Orientation - Integration 


Our Episcopal/Anglican Tradition

Episcopal Ethos     Assumptions on the Spiritual Life    Threefold Rule of Prayer






Ways to make better decisions - discern the mind of the Body

Likes - Concerns - Wishes   Brainstorm & Prioritize   

Methods from In Your Holy Spirit: Shaping the Parish through Spiritual Practice



Our consultant 

Michelle Heyne, OA brings empathy, humor, and a solid grounding in ecclesiology and effective organizational dynamics to her work as a trainer and consultant.  She is committed to helping parish leaders bring about effective change by developing the skills they need to make the most of the gifts they already have.  She has worked as a financial services executive for over 25 years and served as a parish lay leader for 15. Michelle lives in Seattle.

Michelle served as part of the training team with the Diocese of Washington and national Shape of the Parish.  She has also done training with and received a certificate from the Church Development Institute. Michelle also has completed NTL's Organization Development Certificate program. She is a consultant in the financial services industry for organization development and compliance issues. Michelle has extensive experience with financial management, interpersonal communications and team dynamics, and developing and implementing organizational change initiatives. She has non-profit experience in the areas of team building, strategic planning, and conflict management. She attends St. Paul's, Seattle.  Michelle is a Professed Member of the Order of the Ascension and the 8th superior, Presiding Sister, of the Order.

Writing: In Your Holy Spirit: Traditional Spiritual Practices in Today's Christian LifeUnderstanding from Within: Working with Religious Systems, OD Practitioner, with Robert Gallagher, January 2015;  “Quality & Empowerment: Organization Development at WomenRising 1992 – 2016.”, OD Practitioner, with Robert Gallagher, Spring 2016. Book in process: Shaping the Parish: A Pastoral Theology of the Parish Churchwith Robert Gallagher