contemplative resources

Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue. I am rereading O’Donohue’s gorgeous work that offers lyrical, poetic musings on nature, human life, friendship, love and loss and speaks to me in the deep places of my being. – Julie Pennington-Russell, Co-Director of Going Deeper: Clergy Spiritual Life & Leadership

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine by Sue Monk Kidd. This is a reissued addition to Sue Monk Kidd’s memoir from the 1980’s. It is a personal story of discovering the Divine Feminine and the fear, anger, healing and freedom that accompanied her spiritual journey in a quest to live authentically. – Laura Neal, Board Member and Program Staff

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd. This is a beautiful story of Ana, a young woman who encounters Jesus at the age of 18 and becomes his wife. Written with a reverential approach to Jesus’s life that focuses on his humanity, the book focuses on the main character Ana as she struggles with her brother Judas’ betrayal and realizes the passion and potential inside her while living in a time, place and culture devised to silence her. – Laura Neal, Board Member and Program Staff

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  This book is historical fiction about Nigeria’s Biafra war. Adichie deftly draws the reader into the lives of fully drawn characters, including a young houseboy, several university professors, an English journalist, and twin sisters.  It is a complex tale of the Civil War and lives and loves lost in a fight for independence. – Audrey Smith, Board Member and Program Staff

Practice of the Presence: A Revolutionary Translation by Carmen Acevedo Butcher. This new translation by a woman of color and scholar of medieval texts brings a fresh, inclusive treatment to the 1692 classic of Brother Lawrence. We are invited into a practice of Presence that is both accessible and deeply transformative. – Westina Matthews, Board Member

Our Unforming: De-Westernizing Spiritual Formation by Cindy S. Lee. The author explores the cultural shifts and differences and considers how to reimagine spirituality in a circular way, beyond the Western experience. Thoughtful and well-written, this is an excellent resource for spiritual formation programs or small groups. – Westina Matthews, Board Member

Black Liturgies by Cole Arthur Riley. This is available on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Cole Arthur Riley stretches my own understanding of what spirituality can look like. And more than anything her words encourage compassion, something each of us needs more of. – Karin Selland, Administrative Staff

Hope Leans Forward by Valerie Brown.  Brown’s advice acknowledges the challenges that we each face and draws upon her experience as a Buddhist Quaker.  The wisdom she offers, however, is ecumenical and offers pragmatic guidance on bringing meditation, spirituality, and groundedness into one’s life. – Sarah Willie-LeBreton, Board Member

The Salt Eaters by Toni Cade Bambara. This novel explores the intersections of spirituality, trauma, and justice from a Black woman’s perspective.  It has expanded my horizons and deepened my awareness of how God meets us in the full range of our emotions and experiences.  It’s shown me another perspective on what hope and healing actually are, how the contemplative and prophetic go hand in hand amid all the suffering and setbacks we encounter. – Jackson Droney, Director of Operations, Program Staff

When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God by T.M Luhrmann. Luhrmann, an anthropologist trained in psychology, explores the process that leads some believers to a place where God is profoundly real and his voice can be heard amid the clutter of everyday thoughts in an environment of overwhelming skepticism. Astute, deeply intelligent, and sensitive, When God Talks Back is a remarkable approach to the intersection of religion, psychology, and science, and the effect it has on the daily practices of the faithful. – Phillip Stephens, Director of Nurturing the Call: Spiritual Guidance Program

The Persuaders: At the Front Line of the Fight for Hearts, Minds, and Democracy by Anand Giridharadas. An insider account of activists, politicians, educators, and everyday citizens working to change minds and bridge divisions. The book’s subjects grapple with how to lift up threats and injustices while inviting in those who don’t agree with them now, but might one day, to point to a way to healing and changing. – Phillip Stephens, Director of Nurturing the Call: Spiritual Guidance Program

Unfolding Light, Daily reflections by Steve Garnaas-Holmes. You can subscribe to this and receive a daily email. His poetry wakes me up and invites me in in a way few other contemporaries have. – Susan Etherton, Board Member

Echoes of Panhala Facebook page.  This showcases a variety of poetry each day. I find poetry is an excellent entry into my spiritual direction sessions. – Susan Etherton, Board Member

Seven Sacred Pauses by Macrina Wiederkehr. This is a staple for my daily reflections. Macrina offers “pauses” in line with the Hours of the Day – The Night Watch, The Awakening Hour, The Hour of Illumination, etc. that allow me to be attentive to my prayer and energy throughout the day. – Susan Etherton, Board Member

Pray-as-you-go. This is a daily prayer website, podcast and application that was created in 2006 by the Jesuits in the United Kingdom. It offers a daily meditation following a simple format in a contemplative style – music, invitation, scripture reading, reflection questions, second reading, reflection, invitation to prayer, closing. It was originally designed as its title suggests to have something “on the go.” You can listen while driving to school or work, while walking or with your morning coffee. – Susan Etherton, Board Member

Psalms Redux: Poems and Prayers by Carla A. Grosche-Miller. This is one of my favorite books of alternate psalms. They are born from the author’s personal prayer and wrestling with scripture — a journey I appreciate. Her language and imagery touch my soul. From Psalm 139 – “The mystery of Your being so intimate, so strange. A silken veil obscuring vision; a compelling luminescence that will not be solved.” – Lorie Conway, Director of Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Spiritual Groups & Retreats

Well for the Journey. The Well is a non-profit that offers short-term spiritual wellness opportunities in-person (Lutherville-Timonium, MD) and online. Their Impact Statement is “Nourishing the soul for the healing of the world.” A kindred spirit to Shalem, the Well nourishes my soul regularly. – Lorie Conway, Director of Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Spiritual Groups & Retreats

A Book of Hours by Thomas Merton.  This book gathers together some of Merton’s short essays, prayers and commentaries to be offered as a prayer at dawn, midday, dusk or night of each day.  So many thought-provoking and beautiful passages to settle a busy, distracted mind.  This is a book I return to again and again. – Kathleen Richard, Board Member

To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue.  A blessing is a ‘calling forth’ and each one of the many blessings in this collection calls to our deepest, truest self that which is possible and alive. This is another resource I return to again and again. – Kathleen Richard, Board Member

The Artists Rule by Christine Valters Paintner.  This book weaves together readings, poetry and exercises that encourage our creative self while helping the reader imagine a deeper wisdom that is available to each of us through contemplative practices.  This is a new book for me and came from the Heart Longings course. – Kathleen Richard, Board Member

Sensual Faith: The Art of Coming Home to Your Body by Lyvonne Briggs, MDiv, ThM. Sensual Faith invites readers to “celebrate our bodies as our very homes.” Briggs weaves West African traditions into inclusive and affirming spiritual wellness practices, allowing readers to develop a faith that harmonizes with pleasure and sexuality. It is a gift for those who’ve felt their bodies were never enuf. – ArDonna Hamilton, Administrative Staff

This Here Flesh by Cole Arthur Riley.
Cole Arthur Riley, the creator of Black Liturgies, has written an amazing first book. Her exquisite autobiographical storytelling exposes her wounding and her healing, her fears and her hopes. She invites us into a spirituality connected to our bodies, to place, to healing, and to justice. – Margaret Benefiel, Executive Director


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.