Shalem Institute 40 Years: Trusting the Spirit

1973 – Nixon was President, Watergate hearings were beginning, the Vietnam War was ending, and IRA bombs were exploding in London. Amidst this time of unrest, a longing to walk more closely with God was emerging. In Washington, DC, Tilden Edwards, a young Episcopal priest, led a small group of spiritual seekers on retreat. Sensing the Spirit’s nudging, this group began to meet weekly. And in this quiet way, the seeds that would become Shalem Institute were planted.

40 years! It is no mean feat for a non-profit to centerpiece in sunlight survive for four decades, let alone to consistently and faithfully offer programs and resources to nurture the contemplative heart! I stand in awe of the work of the Spirit in continuing to breathe life into Shalem! Certainly the leaders of Shalem–Tilden, Jerry May, Rose Mary Dougherty, and many others-have committed numerous hours and much hard work throughout the years. And it seems to me that their biggest contribution has been and continues to be a radical willingness to listen to that Still Small Voice and to answer “yes!” to the call. 40 years of trusting the Spirit.

I imagine that those early pilgrims never dreamed that they would be a part of founding an organization. But then I think it’s often quite a challenge to envision how the Spirit will use any of us. I began my own journey with Shalem in 2004 when I enrolled in the Personal Spiritual Deepening Program (PSDP). I had no idea how that program would transform my life and how an authentic spiritual community would emerge from that shared PSDP journey -this among individuals who on the surface seemed to have nothing in common yet who shared a deep, underlying desire for God and the contemplative path.

Today, I am humbled, blessed and still amazed to be a part of this organization. Every day I set my intention to live into contemplative leadership-and almost every day I fall short. Nonetheless, working in collaboration with our amazing staff and wonderful Board inspires and illumines me. Shalem graduates and program associates bring incredible gifts to our shared journey. We are blessed by all those who support Shalem financially; and it’s hard to imagine how we could continue without your prayers.

40 years! We hope that you will join us in honoring Shalem’s past, celebrating where we are today, and in embracing our hope for the future. As you’ll see in this newsletter, we’ll begin our 41st year with launching Shalem’s first-ever Online SOCP Icon School of Contemplative Prayer. Many who long for support for their spiritual journey yet who are unable to travel to our on-site programs have asked for a way to participate online and our online school responds to those requests.

Trusting the Spirit. Our world is arguably even more tumultuous today than when Shalem began in 1973. We are faced with complex issues that require mind-in-heart listening and a shared community of support. The ancient-yet-ever-new contemplative path is critical for our lives and for our world. And so the work of Shalem seems even more needed today than it was in 1973.

May we continue to explore the spiritual life together, provide a spiritual home for seekers, and be ever-guided by a radical trust in the Spirit.

January 01, 2013 by Leah Rampy
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Our mission is to nurture contemplative living and leadership.


In 2025, Shalem will be a dynamic and inclusive community, empowered by the Spirit, where seekers engage in transformation of themselves, their communities, and the world through spiritual growth, deep connection, and courageous action.