If Christian universities are to pursue excellence in teaching and research while deepening their religious commitment, they must provide significant opportunities for their faculty and staff to reflect upon the relationship between learning and faith and the mission of Christian higher education.
Offered each May since 2001 by the Institute for Faith and Learning, Communio: A Retreat for Baylor Educators, seeks to meet this important faculty development need at Baylor. The five-day retreat features guest lectures and guided discussions by noted Christian thinkers, common meals and worship, and other activities that encourage collegiality among faculty members as they explore together their common aims as Christian educators at Baylor.
Among a multitude of goals, Communio aims at three in particular. The retreat first aims to acquaint faculty with a theological understanding of vocation/calling. Secondly, it aims to explore the implications of Christian calling for academic life in both its teaching and scholarly dimensions. Lastly, Communio aims to enhance faculty readiness to help mentor students in discerning and responding to their own Christian vocation.
What happens at the retreat?
Communio is first and foremost a retreat—an extended time for prayer, reflection, and renewal. Each day begins and ends with common prayer. Through scripture, sacred music, and silence we hope to orient (and often re-orient) the pattern of our daily living towards becoming more attuned to God’s calling on our lives. Many who have attended these retreats have found these times of prayer as the most important offering of the week.
Each morning and evening, we also will meet for a time of presentation and discussion led by one of our retreat speakers. Here we are able to learn and reflect together about matters of vocation, the relationship between faith and the academy, and the university's engagement with the church and culture.
Apart from these times, most of the day is left for exploring the trails around Laity Lodge, swimming, fishing, reading, painting, sculpting, or simply resting. Meals are unhurried to allow plenty of time for conversation with colleagues.
Here are comments from some previous retreat participants:
“I believe that in order to offer students transformational education, Baylor must create transformational opportunities for faculty and staff across the disciplines to think deeply, together, about the work in which we are engaged. The Communio retreat is exactly that. This year's retreat was like a microcosm of what Baylor aspires to be. It was intentionally rigorous, thoughtfully and prayerfully Christian, and focused on questions of vocation, including ways in which Baylor can serve students and the world.”
“ ‘Invigorating’ and ‘enlightening’ are two words that may very well be the best way to describe my overall experience at Laity Lodge.”
For its first decade, the retreat was titled, Vocation, Liberal Learning, and the Professions. It was originally conceived as a part of Baylor Horizons, a multi-year initiative funded by over $2.5 million in grants from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. to create new or enhance existing programs at Baylor University that support the theological exploration of vocation.
Past leaders include:
- Anton Armstrong, St. Olaf College
- Dorothy C. Bass, Valparaiso University
- Michael Beaty, Baylor University
- Amy Black, Wheaton College
- Heidi Bostic, Baylor University
- Anne-Marie Bowery, Baylor University
- Burt Burleson, Baylor University
- Paul J. Contino, Pepperdine University
- Darin Davis, Baylor University
- C. Stephen Evans, Baylor University
- Jan Evans, Baylor University
- Susan M. Felch, Calvin College
- Lee Hardy, Calvin College
- Jeanne Heffernan, Pepperdine University
- Douglas Henry, Baylor University
- Thomas Hibbs, Baylor University
- David Lyle Jeffrey, Baylor University
- Karren Kowalski, Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence
- Todd Lake, Baylor University
- Elizabeth Newman, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond
- John O'Callaghan, University of Notre Dame
- Julie Pennington-Russell, First Baptist Church, Decatur, Georgia
- Charles Pinches, University of Scranton
- Mark W. Roche, University of Notre Dame
- Shirley J. Roels, Calvin College
- Mark Schwehn, Valparaiso University
- David Smith, Calvin College
- Thomas Smith, Villanova University
- David Solomon, University of Notre Dame
- Daniel Treier, Wheaton College
- Susan VanZanten, Seattle Pacific University
- Candace Vogler, University of Chicago
- Paul Wadell, St. Norbert College
- Nicholas Wolterstorff, Yale University
- Ralph Wood, Baylor University
Several hundred Baylor educators representing over 50 academic departments and programs at Baylor have participated in this retreat. Thus, a significant portion of Baylor’s total faculty have engaged in this important program of reading, reflection, and conversation about the theological exploration of vocation.