Academic Programs 

Pathways to Renewal: The Role and Purpose of the Retreat  (AM-655-3)
Summer 2003

The Retreat is a profound and popular way to nourish the inner spiritual life of individuals and the communal spirituality of congregations.  Ideally, it offers a way for discovering and living a holistic harmony of body, mind, psyche and spirit.  The Retreat creates open, welcoming sacred space in which individuals and communities may explore their deepest values, center their lives, and cultivate disciplines for sustaining themselves in the midst of a rapidly changing world.  This course is intended for lay or ordained persons or persons in related fields, who are interested in developing/facilitating or have an interest in/responsibility for the organization of retreats.  The course will locate the concept of retreat in the mystical/monastic heritage of the world’s great religious traditions and provide a variety of styles and strategies for the effective delivery and appreciation of the Retreat experience.  The course culminates in a seven-hour retreat together.  

Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (June 3, 5, 10, 12, 17, 19 24, 26) and Saturday, June 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Joseph Baxer
Adjunct Professor of the Arts of Ministry  

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9500

Course Syllabus


Course Goals/Learning Outcomes

1)  To enable students to have a conceptual understanding of the retreat experience within a historical perspective of world religious traditions

2)  To explore retreat designs for a) church-wide retreats, b) youth retreats, c) older adult retreats, d) personally guided retreats, e) private retreats and holistic yoga/meditation retreats

3)  To experience numerous techniques and models used within the various religious retreat  traditions.

4)  To develop the skills to plan, organize, implement and evaluate a retreat experience.

5)  To utilize the journal integrate the experience and knowledge of the retreat into one’s personal life journey and goals

Course Methodology  

Lectures, interactive dialogue, integrative strategies and techniques, musical selections, guest speakers, (if appropriate) a visit to a multi-faceted  retreat center and a retreat experience.

Contents of the Course 

1)  The historical development of retreats within the  great mystical traditions of the world

2)  Retreat strategies for congregations 

3)  Meditation and yoga retreats; prayer of the heart and prayer of the body

4)  Private and directed retreats;  discernment within  Ignatian spirituality

5)  Spiritual guidance; Scriptures, nature, dreams, relationships

6)  Organizational skills: working through resistance to transformation

7)  Maintaining healthy, balanced leaders

Pre-Course Reading

Norris, Kathleen … The Cloister Walk, paperback – Riverhead Books

Required Texts 

Teasdale, Wayne … The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions, paperback – New World Library   

Thomas Hart... Coming Down the Mountain: How to Turn your Retreat into Everyday Living, paperback - Paulist Press    

Thomas Ryan... Four Steps to Freedom, paperback - Paulist Press   

Select Supportive Bibliography

Ammerman, Nancy Tatom … Congregation & Community, Rutgers University

Eliade, Mircea …The Sacred and Profane: The Nature of Religion, Harcourt Press  

Jung, Carl … Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Harcourt Press

Herrington, Jim et al. … Leading Congregational Change: A Practical Guide for the Transformational Journey, Jossey-Bass Publishers 

Markham, Donna … Spiritlinking Leadership: Working Through Resistance to Organizational Change, Paulist Press 

Pannenberg, Wolfhart … Christianity in a Secularized World, Crossroad

Ryan, Thomas … Prayer of Heart and Body: Meditation and Yoga as Christian Spiritual Practice,  Paulist Press

Ryan, Thomas … Disciplines for Christian Living: Interfaith Perspectives, Paulist Press  

Schaeffer, Rachel … Yoga for your Spiritual Muscles, Quest Books  

Sofield, Loughlan et al. …The Collaborative Leader: Listening to the Wisdom of God’s People  

Wolff, Pierre … Discernment: The Art of Choosing Well, Triumph Books  

Wolff, Pierre … The Hungry Heart: Answers to the 20 Most-Asked Questions About Prayer, Triumph Books  

Wolff, Pierre … The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, Triumph Books.  


1)  Class presence, informed interaction and participation in the retreat planning, development, implementation and evaluation process as indicative of the integration of the material presented/discussed

2)  Students working in teams prepare a model retreat experience.  A supportive paper outlining the theoretical/conceptual/theological framework for this model is expected.

3)  With the assistance of the Journal, students demonstrate a personal integration of the material covered and its application to life situations.


Joseph Baxer is director of Global Network Consultants. Affiliated with the Reformed Catholic Church, he has worked as a priest-consultant for the past 30 years.  During that time, he has led retreats, seminars, workshops and travel/study groups in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. He has taught as adjunct professor both at St Joseph College in West Hartford and Emory in Atlanta. The focus has primarily been to expand spiritual awareness, sensitizing individuals to different societal segments and faith traditions of the human community.  Mutual acceptance and respect, stimulated through interracial and intercultural dialogue, have enabled participants to move beyond stereotypical characterizations of individuals, ethnic groups or religious traditions.  He holds graduate degrees in philosophy, theology, sociology, psychology and organizational development from Universities in the United States and Europe.  Based in Europe for ten years, he speaks French, Spanish and Italian.  Presently, he resides with his wife Barbara in Connecticut.

Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500