Widening the Lens: Diversity and Inclusion in Contemplative Living and Leadership

Grant Awarded from Trinity Church Wall Street

From 2020 to 2022, the Shalem Program Committee focused on the issue of diversity, equity, and inclusion through several initiatives, including: 1) meeting with the program directors of all long-term programs, to include more diverse reading lists and curricula; 2) engaging and surveying over 100 self-identified Contemplatives of Color/BIPOC Shalem graduates; and 3) reporting to the Shalem Board on these initiatives along with recommended next steps. The Shalem Board agreed that engagement with diverse communities is an important goal for Shalem, particularly in light of Vision 2025, and that more work needs to be done. The full board has taken up the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion over the past year.  Fully supportive of the work ahead, the board recognized that without additional funding it could not accomplish all that we desire to do. Fortunately, Shalem has been notified that it has been awarded a grant of $100,000 from Trinity Church Wall Street to support our diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

This grant was one of more than $22 million awarded to 111 nonprofit organizations in New York City, the United States, and abroad. “This is a time of great and increasing need in our neighborhood, and across the world,” said the Rev. Phillip A. Jackson, Rector of Trinity Church Wall Street. “Our faith calls on us to use our gifts to help all people, advancing equity and justice in the here and now—and hopefully for generations to come. We are grateful to be able to make these strategic investments in the work of our remarkable grantee partners, and in work that will have a direct impact on people’s lives.”

With this Trinity grant, Shalem has an excellent opportunity to support all its participants in connecting their contemplative work with issues of race and justice. Vision 2025, which the Shalem board unanimously approved a year ago, includes a focus area of belonging.  “Belonging is the manifestation of God’s union with all things. When we are radically inclusive, we embrace the Loving Essence of each individual. A sense of belonging for each of us follows as we are part of something larger than ourselves while honoring who we are and who we want to be.” This connection is important to support participants who are serving in a world that needs leaders formed by Shalem to be deeply grounded and spiritually courageous. Addressing the issues of equity, inclusion, and diversity helps to remove barriers between individuals and communities and leads to transformation. The Divine Source invites all of us to draw on that Deep Well of Love. Now is the time for Shalem to say “Yes!” to that invitation and to broaden the traditional understanding of what it means to be a contemplative leader in a diverse world.

Among other things, the grant provides funding for Shalem to hire a consultant to help in the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The grant objectives are as follows:

1) Shalem is attentive to the transparency, integrity, and accountability of its interactions with its internal and external constituents, including its relationships within the larger global, diverse community.

2) Shalem is committed to valuing diversity and communicates publicly its stance on diversity, equity and inclusion.

3) Board, staff, program directors, and participants will represent the breadth of racial, ethnic, cultural, and gender identities.

4) Shalem is committed to programming, communications and publications that invite and represent the diversity of this country and the world.

Included in the grant is support for Shalem’s new book Soul Food: Nourishing Essays on Contemplative Living and Leadership (September 2023). We are grateful to be able to provide one-time honoraria to the 17 contributors. And the co-editors (Westina Matthews, Margaret Benefiel, and Jackson Droney) will also direct all their royalties from this book to the Shalem Institute in support of its vision to become a dynamic and inclusive community.

Thank you Trinity Church Wall Street for your “holy yes” to this important work of Shalem.

Read the full Trinity Church Grant Press Release

November 11, 2023 by Westina Matthews 3 Comments
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Winston B Charles
Winston B Charles
6 months ago

Thank you, Westina, for your work in making this grant possible for Shalem‘s rich future as a witness to the world and an embodiment of the Beloved Community.

Ed Poling
Ed Poling
6 months ago

This is wonderful new, Westina. Thank you for sharing it and for your work with Shalem. I purchased the copy of Soul Food and look forward to reading it. This work is so important to heal the many painful things that keep us from realizing our Oneness as human beings.

Ann Folwell Stanford
Ann Folwell Stanford
6 months ago

This is such exciting news! Congratulations to Shalem, to us, to the world. May the grant continue giving long after the money has been spent.


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.