An Abundance of Blessings
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” — Isaiah 43:19
“Behold! God is doing a new thing.” With these words, nine teams of Shalem graduates were commissioned as associate faculty to return to their communities and begin offering Shalem’s Personal Spiritual Deepening Program (PSDP). No longer a DC-based program requiring travel to two, five-day residencies, PSDP has been transformed to a program with a common core curriculum and a customizable format. Now 84 individuals from South Africa, Ohio, Alabama, New York, Virginia, and DC are participating in PSDP with new classes expected in New Mexico and Maryland!
Looking back on 2010, it’s apparent that God has been at work creating many new things and blessing Shalem’s work with rich abundance! In June the first residency for the Spiritual Guidance Program ’11 was held with 32 participants from across the US and from South Korea. It was a rich experience for many. “There aren’t enough superlatives for my experience. You know the parable of the man who found a treasure in a field and went and sold all he had to buy the field? I get that now. Shalem provided all the things seminary could not for being an ordination institution: spiritual formation, openness in prayer, and respect for the mystery of each individual person. I experienced a fundamental shift of my being in relation to God, and that will impact everything in my life.” A new Spiritual Guidance class is forming now and we trust that those who are seeking the kind of experiential and formative program that Shalem provides will find their way to this program.
Also forming is a new class for Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats. I had the opportunity to be a part of the program this past year, and I’m grateful for such depth of spiritual practice and community. In the words of a fellow participant: “The program was absolutely formative and took me to depths I would not have reached on my own, opened vistas I have sensed but not seen. I am filled with gratitude and also appropriately challenged to move forward boldly.” “Now it springs forth; do you not perceive it?”
Shalem was privileged to provide a two-month internship this summer for the Rev. Hong-il Kim, a leader from South Korea. With support from his Shalem mentors, Rev. Kim returned to lead a workshop for his colleagues in Seoul. Shalem has directly supported over 100 South Korean leaders over the past five years; in turn these leaders have brought contemplative prayer and practice to their communities of over 900 people! “See, I am doing a new thing!”
Tilden Edwards’s new book, Embracing the Call to Spiritual Depth, was published this year, and we were pleased to honor Tilden with a book signing and fundraiser in October. Over $11,000 was raised at that event, and these monies will enable Shalem to continue to focus on contemplatively oriented leadership, an area to which Tilden has contributed much! Thanks to a generous supporter, we were also able to publish his booklet, The Promise of a Contemplatively-Oriented Seminary: Valuing and Nurturing a Mind-in-Heart Way, which has generated much discussion and enthusiasm.
In May, we hosted Matthew Fox for the Fifth Annual Gerald May Seminar; over 150 people participated. We inaugurated a new fall speaker series, Contemplative Voices for the 21st Century, featuring Sharon Parks and Cynthia Bourgeault. This addition to our program life gives us the opportunity to reach out to new audiences, enrich and deepen our own contemplative understanding as well as seek the insights and consultation of these distinguished leaders.
The Shalem Society for Contemplative Leadership Annual Gathering focused this year on “Singing the Lord’s Song in the Midst of Conflict.” Shalem staff partnered with Society participants in leading the five days. With 45 people in attendance, the daily rhythm featured didactic input about prayerfully engaging conflict, storytelling, Earth meditations, body prayer and lots of singing, laughing, silence and joy making.
In October, we received a generous offer from a Society member to match contributions from other Society members for up to $50,000! This matching campaign along with donations from other supporters and our committed Board has put us well on our way to our annual fiscal goal (July 2010- June 2011) of $340,000. Additionally, we were thrilled to receive a $10,000 grant from the Trust for the Meditation Process to support our Korean initiative! In June, we moved our offices from our 15-year home in Bethesda, MD, to lovely space in the Hecker Center for Ministry in Northeast DC. This move brings us closer to like-hearted institutions and into the midst of several universities. And the move has the added benefit of reducing our rent by nearly half. For several years now, Shalem has grappled with financial stability. Although it remains far from easy, we rejoice in the wonderful gifts of prayer and financial support we have received. “I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
It’s difficult to list all of the things that are being made new at Shalem. Thirty pilgrims traveled to Iona. We completed the fourth session of School of Prayer in partnership with the Washington National Cathedral. Working with the St. Rose of Lima Parish, we are offering a program in spiritual friendship. We are collaborating with Lancaster Theological Seminary on a Master of Divinity degree with a focus in Spiritual Guidance. We’ve published the e-News regularly, revised the website, kept in touch with many through Facebook and Twitter, and created videos on YouTube. We’ve held open houses to introduce people to Shalem. We’ve offered quiet days, Mystics series, and Group Spiritual Direction.
Yet as hard as we all work, it’s clear that so much of what is new has not come from our own efforts. The Spirit is blowing afresh at Shalem, surprising us with new opportunities, invigorating us with possibility and promise. We are called to step onto the path made plain and to bear witness to the work of the Spirit. “Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” We ask for your prayers for this journey.