Written by Robin Schmidt, GCPM student

As a first-semester distance learner in the Graduate Certificate Program for Pastoral Ministry, the chance to be on campus for a two-day retreat was something I jumped at, and I am so glad I did. While I am not a member of an “Abbey” (cohort of MDiv students) as a distance learning student, I was welcome to attend the Abbey Retreat, which takes place about mid-way through the semester. 

There were so many reasons why I had a wonderful experience at the Abbey retreat. I met both of my professors and had actual conversations with them “around the water cooler” and over lunch. I also met three classmates, which was a surprise and delight. Class discussions online will be more meaningful now that I know them better.

In addition, I met other students whom I would not know apart from this event. There was time to hear their stories while sharing a meal, working a puzzle, worshiping, or just hanging out.

During the time set aside for Abbey groups to connect, I was placed in a group of other “non-Abbey” students. We met twice to discuss our retreat experiences and the theme of holiness. Our sharing went deep, and we spent time together in prayer.

The Western Seminary Chapel intrigues me- with its unconventional configuration and beauty. I was thrilled to participate in worship there with students, professors, and staff. WTS has expanded my worship experience, and at the retreat, I participated with a “gesture” – filling the baptismal font. 

Every minute of the two days helped me identify more closely with the WTS community. While I am truly grateful for distance learning and the ability to study from home, I miss in-person conversations, exchanging ideas and thoughts, and praying together. The Abbey Retreat provided space for all of that. I’m looking forward to participating in other Abbey retreats in future semesters!

To learn more about the fall 2022 Abbey retreat, visit wtsem.info/fall-abbey-retreat-22