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First Things held its first-ever Intellectual Retreat in August of 2015 on “The Paradox of Freedom” in New York City. Since then, First Things has hosted eleven retreats. We hosted our twelfth in Phoenix, Arizona on March 25–26, 2022. Fittingly, this retreat returned to the fertile ground of our first, using different sources to once again discuss the topic of freedom. Previous retreats have spanned the conceptual sphere and the country, ranging from the common good in Washington, D.C.; the search for happiness in Los Angeles; economics and the human person in Philadelphia; and the good of marriage in Waco, Texas.

At their core, Intellectual Retreats invite participants to step back from their phones, email notifications, and other distractions that vie for attention and spend a weekend in study, fellowship, and reflection. We begin in fellowship with a Friday night cocktail reception, followed by dinner and an opening lecture by a prominent First Things editor or contributor. Having made initial introductions, First Things divides participants into small discussion groups for four Saturday seminars facilitated by expert tutors from a rotating cohort of excellent Great Books colleges. The retreat concludes with dinner and a panel discussion, sending participants back out into the world eager to devote more time to our three prerogatives: study, fellowship, and reflection. To ensure the quality of our Intellectual Retreats, First Things charges participants an all-inclusive tuition fee of $600. We award a select number of scholarships to seminarians, graduate students, and classical school teachers, a program we seek to grow for future retreats. 

Here are a few testimonials from attendees of our most recent Intellectual Retreat:

“This gathering was wonderful, and, Lord willing, I will remember it and apply its insights for many years.”

First Things kindly gives its readers and supporters room to live as they are each called by our Creator—it issues no marching orders to minions and trusts that the Spirit is moving as it will.”

Our next First Things Intellectual Retreat will take place in New York City on August 19–20; the topic will be “Death and Mourning.” To RSVP, please visit

For a full list of past retreats, see below.


Death and Mourning
Penn Club of New York
August 19–20, 2022


Phoenix, AZ
March 25–26, 2022

The Union League Club
August 13–14, 2021

Faith, Hope, Love
Virtual, via WebEx 
June 16–19, 2020

The Virtuous Life
New York University
August 9–10, 2019

The Common Good
Washington, D.C.
June 7–8, 2019

Economics and the Human Person
October 12–13, 2018

The Life of the Mind
New York University
August 10–12, 2018

The Political Life
New York University
August 11–13, 2017

The Good of Marriage
Baylor University
May 19–21, 2017

Love and Friendship
New York University
August 5–7, 2016

The Search for Happiness
University of California, Los Angeles
May 20–22, 2016

The Paradox of Freedom
New York University
August 7-9, 2015