The Context of Community

Written by Stephen Angliss on September 29th, 2016

Before Jesus taught His disciples, before He gave them the Great Commission, and before he told them to carry their cross, He first invited them to a wedding. The Jesus system of education did not begin with lessons, lists, or lectures–just wine. How revealing that the very first miracle that Christ performed did not bring about healing or penance but enjoyment and celebration!

How could this be? Certainly Jesus came to redeem, not revel. Surely He had more in store for His new disciples then mere partying and bringing a steady supply of the good drink. Yet the first miracle of Jesus’ ministry did much more than just revive a dwindling wedding reception. It created a context of community.

And that is just what the Providence Secondary Retreat creates: a context of community, or the chance for students and teachers alike to gain a better understanding of those around them. Of course, we’ve replaced the jars of wine with tubs of Gatorade, but like Jesus with his disciples, before the long and strenuous training period that is our school year, the students and faculty receive the chance to learn about each other in a way seldom experienced in the classroom.


As a history teacher, I thrive on context. I do not merely seek to know what something is, I also want to know why. Why did Walt Disney make Snow White? Why did Abraham Lincoln go to the theater on a Good Friday, just five days after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox? At the retreat I get the chance to answer similar questions. I get a chance to learn the preferences, passions, and pet peeves of my pupils. They also learn the same about me. They learn that one of my favorite outdoor activities is sitting by the campfire; they learn that Mr. Angliss is loud–and competitive. In the same way, I learn that one of my quieter students has an absolutely hilarious sense of humor, or that another one loves listening to Christian hip-hop. I learn that one of my 8th graders is a master at Carpet Ball, and I learn that some people enjoy more spaghetti sauce on their noodles than others.

The Secondary Retreat offers to Providence secondary students what the wedding in Cana offered to Jesus and His disciples: the chance to grow in unity as a group by celebrating together. For Jesus and His followers, the teaching would come, and so would the suffering. But, for that short time in Cana, they would first dance. They would first drink. They would first laugh. The first command of Jesus to His followers was not “come and learn” or “come and obey” but simply “come and see.”

And that is exactly what we are inviting our students to do with the Secondary Retreat. No speeches or assignments, just competitions and conversations. We ask our students first, “come and see.” Come and see what this school is about, how our community builds each other up. Come see that your teachers are people just like you, who have passions and interests of their own. Come and see what it’s like to be an upperclassman, or to hang out with the middle-schoolers. Come and see.


Before Jesus taught His disciples, He first talked to them. Before Jesus sent them out, He would first walk with them. And so, before I teach my students the theories of the Enlightenment, I will first sit by them near the warm light of the campfire. Before I grade and correct their essays, I will first ooh and ahh at their skills in volleyball and bean-bag toss. And before I observe with my students the greatness of the Renaissance frescos, I will first stand by them and admire the beauty of God’s creation in the still morning. By going to the Secondary Retreat, my students and I receive a context of community. By learning more of each other, we are now better prepared to learn more alongside each other, and that will make all the difference.


Secondary Retreat by 10th Grader, Cienna Dumaoal

Game upon game of beach volleyball, scary stories around a bonfire late at night, priceless bonding between older and younger students and between teachers and students, not to mention great food. All of these things and more could be found at the Secondary Retreat, which took place last week at Lakeside Bible Camp for the third consecutive year. Matins and Vespers, services led by Mr. Angliss involving worship and a message from the Word, were held every morning and evening. House competitions and tournament sports took up most of the day, and evenings were occupied by games in the mess hall that resulted in excitement that threatened to bring down the roof. As always, the retreat accomplished its goal of establishing community through healthy competition and good, old-fashioned fun.

Secondary Retreat by 7th Grader, Jackson Baron

I’m in the seventh grade, so this was my first year going on the secondary retreat to Whidbey Island. I was excited to go, but I was slightly worried that as a new seventh grader I would not be accepted by everyone else. But when I got there, I felt that everyone was kind and helpful to me and all of the other seventh graders who came.

I thoroughly enjoyed everything there was to do at retreat. There was volleyball and basketball, baseball and pickle ball, and plenty of other games and activities to keep occupied throughout the day. There was a lot of time during the retreat to hang out with other friends and peers and get to know one another better, especially during the time we spent working with our house on a play and themed chariot. During one of these times, I had an idea, but I was afraid that as a seventh grader the older kids would not listen. But when I gave my idea, they used it! That was very encouraging.

One of my favorite things was game night, in which everyone was split up into different groups and I got to play games with some kids and teachers I did not know. I got to know them better as we played games together.

As a whole, I thought that the retreat was a great way to get closer to teachers and students, and that it was very fun and exciting. I am very excited to go again next year.