Finding My Spiritual Home at Shalem
I was probably about six years old when I first felt God’s presence. I have spent the rest of my life trying to understand what I should do with that sense of God and that “inner compass” that has kept nudging me toward God through the years.
My life unfolded in the usual business ways, and the deep, prayerful calls to my spirit were answered by me only in the usual church services and the short prayers I had been taught in my childhood. Like many, I was taught to give thanks and to ask for things such as protection for my family and to make requests that I hoped would be fulfilled. I was not taught to take time, particularly time in silence, to listen to that strong, still voice within that is open to the Spirit. And it just never occurred to me that there existed somewhere a group of people who practiced a different type of prayer—contemplative prayer—that connected the inner compass to God.
Discovering Shalem when I was attempting to answer my call to a prayerful life was like discovering my real home. Here is a community of people who understand that inner compass, those nudges, the need for communing with the Spirit. This community teaches, supports and loves you to a life of contemplation.
I was at a discernment retreat at Richmond Hill when I met Liz Ward, director of Shalem’s Spiritual Guidance Program, who suggested I look into Shalem and encouraged me to take the Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program. I was hesitant and reluctant, but I believe this was a life-changing decision for me. I was immediately introduced to a warm group of like-minded contemplatives who come from all walks of life and all professions. Yes, some of them were theologians and ministers, but many were not schooled in theology to any professional level. They were people on a spiritual journey, wishing to pray deeper and learn more.
The required reading list was both overwhelming and enlightening, but I quickly became used to immersing myself in books by writers I never had heard of but felt I had known all my life. The two required retreats were a gift. Getting to spend a week in a quiet, beautiful environment of fellowship and contemplation with a group of spirit-filled people who would become my lifelong friends was also life enhancing.
And yet just making the time for this in-depth experience can be truly challenging, just as it is challenging to make time for prayer itself. How do you find the time for adding more to your busy and hectic, multi-tasking life? Sometimes, I’ve discovered, if you can take that first step, you will find that things of passion are the big rock of life and the other stuff will fall like sand into place around it.
For me, the journey to and with the Shalem community has been invaluable. This ecumenical community is open to all who are seeking to listen to the Spirit, connect to God, and grow on the path of prayer and enlightenment. Together we live in the joy and the knowledge that God is with us, that in contemplative prayer we surrender to the Spirit and know that we are one.