Respect the Past, Represent the Future

When I was in college banners hung around campus with the phrase, “Respect the past, represent the future.”  This was a reference to a recently reorganized football program.  The university hoped that this reorganization – and marketing campaign – would lead to a better season.  It didn’t.  But the phrase has stayed with me over the years as I think about the challenges of leadership, particularly in spiritual and religious spaces that derive so much of their identity from tradition and shared history.

Over the past year, we’ve honored Shalem’s fiftieth anniversary by looking back and looking ahead.  For 50 years Shalem graduates have gone on to enrich their lives and those around them through the spiritual deepening they experienced through our offerings.  Many of our graduates lead congregations and other organizations out of the contemplative orientation they cultivated through their time in a Shalem program.  Through our relationship with Shalem, we’re each part of a remarkable history that has made an impact on many people’s lives, directly and indirectly. 

So much time, talent, and treasure – so much love – has gone into making Shalem possible for the past fifty years!  When I sit with the magnitude of it, I am overcome with gratitude.  It is extraordinary how the Spirit has brought us together over time to share our love of God and neighbor with each other in this way.  Praise be to God!

It is out of this love and gratitude, that I approach Vision 2025 and wonder about Shalem’s future.  I long for Shalem to continue to be a vital, life-giving organization that is rooted in prayer and guided by the Spirit.  And I believe that means how we talk about and do the work of Shalem will evolve.  That is what Vision 2025 is all about. 

The pandemic and racial justice protests of 2020 spurred a lot of changes at Shalem that continue to unfold.  I’m so grateful for the leadership of our program directors thinking critically about their curricula and program structure to be more inclusive and reflective of the diversity of the larger contemplative movement.  And my colleagues in the office have gone to great lengths to move Shalem into the future with our administrative systems and technological capabilities.   Thank you!

In some ways, Vision 2025 functions as a strategic plan with goals and benchmarks.  Much of the work I do for Shalem – Human Resources, finance, technology – is about supporting the organization so that it can remain healthy and thrive.  Having discerned goals and plans for making these organizational improvements is helpful and wise. 

Vision 2025 is also more than a strategic plan.  I invite you to read it again. Notice how it is a bold call to personal and communal transformation through spiritual deepening and courageous action.  We know that spiritual deepening and growth can’t help but lead to transformation of ourselves and the world.  Vision 2025 names this explicitly, calls on us to model this in our involvement at Shalem, and can spur our imagination of how contemplative spirituality can continue to impact the world for another 50 years and beyond. 

I believe the world is longing for more authentic spiritual leaders who live and lead with integrity.  And I believe that with the Spirit’s guidance, Shalem can be a place where such contemplative leadership is modeled and taught for the world of today and tomorrow.  Vision 2025 challenges us to consider our mission with fresh eyes so that it may be so. 

The seed that Tilden Edwards and those around him planted more than 50 years ago has grown to be sturdy and resilient.  May we do our part to tend to it, so it continues to bear lasting fruit.

June 06, 2024 by Jackson Droney 1 Comment
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Patience Robbins
Patience Robbins
1 month ago

For all that has been, thank you. For all that will be, yes. Dag Hammarskjold

Responding to Divine Initiative, we allow the Divine to lead us….. Vision 2025


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.