About Us

Shalem is grounded in Christian contemplative spirituality yet draws on the wisdom of many religious traditions.

Living contemplatively is essential in today’s often chaotic and challenging world. It is a way to live a truly authentic life—anchored in prayer, spiritually discerning, and responsive to God.

We welcome you, wherever you are on the path of spiritual discovery.

  • In brief
  • Vision & Mission
  • Core Values
  • History

Since 1973, the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation has fostered contemplative living and leadership by caring for the spiritual heart in prayer and by offering ways of opening into the life of the Spirit through our programs and other resources. We welcome individuals wherever they are on the path of spiritual discovery.

Shalem is grounded in Christian contemplative spirituality yet draws on the wisdom of many religious traditions. We provide opportunity for spiritual exploration individually and within a community of seekers.

Our partnerships with like-minded organizations enable Shalem’s ministry to expand around the world. Shalem is one of the most respected centers for spiritual deepening in the US and globally.

We provide resources for contemplative living, prayerful reading, invitations to silence, retreat weekends, online courses, speakers and events, and long-term programs for clergy seeking to go deeper, aspiring spiritual directors, contemplative retreat and prayer group leaders, and executives seeking to lead from the heart.

To view Shalem’s current, general brochure, click here.

What is Contemplative Spirituality?
(also translated into Spanish and Korean)

Shalem’s Vision

Grounded in our understanding of God’s desire for peace, wholeness and well-being, we envision a world transformed by contemplative living and leadership in which all people honor one another and creation, recognize their unity and interconnectedness, and courageously seek to live out of this reality.

Shalem’s Mission

To nurture contemplative living and leadership.

I am so deeply grateful for Shalem and the meaningful faith community it is for me and so many, and for the countless ways this connection sustains, supports and nurtures not only the various ministries I offer, but the heart of my soul itself.

Shalem Donor

Shalem’s Core Values

These following core values undergird our understanding of what it means to be contemplative—prayerfully attentive and responsive to God’s presence and guidance:

Awareness that God is intimately present within us and among us

  • We trust that God is immediately present and lovingly active and responsive in our lives. This Presence is always available to guide us toward being our deepest, truest selves in God.

Reverence for the mystery of God’s presence

  • We share and interpret our experience of God’s immanent presence primarily through the wisdom of Christian contemplative tradition and are enriched by the contemplative dimension of other religions and sacred traditions.

Desire for spiritual discernment in all things

  • Because we see God as the one true guide for both individuals and groups, we believe that the best orientation in life should always be toward God. In all things, we seek to be intentionally open to God in each moment as the Spirit guides and co-creates through us.

Radical willingness to trust God

  • We pray to trust God at work in our own lives and in the lives of others—individuals, organizations and nations—even when all seems obscure to us and we do not comprehend the path ahead.

Respect for the unique spiritual path of each individual

  • Because God works uniquely in and through each of us, we offer a wide variety of contemplative practices and teachings that address the three classical expressions of spiritual life: knowing, acting and feeling.

Recognition that contemplative living and leadership require spiritual support

  • We understand that a contemplative orientation towards life requires the support of spiritual practices and spiritual community. We especially value the power of shared silence, the encouragement of attentiveness to God, and the mutual support provided by spiritual community. We commit to the integrity and faithfulness of our spiritual lives as individuals and in community.

Commitment to action in the world arising from a contemplative orientation toward life

  • We believe a contemplative orientation not only draws us to our deepest, truest self in God but also shapes both an individual’s and a community’s way of being in, listening to, and caring for the world.

…It is for us to provide hospitable and inspiring opportunities for people to listen and respond more boldly to the Spirit at work in them…[and] to encourage people to connect what is happening with them to Gods larger movements in the world…”

Tilden Edwards, Shalem’s Founder & Senior Fellow

Shalem’s spiritual lineage is rich and deep, and many
historical spiritual figures, well-known and not so well-known,
have influenced Shalem’s writings, programs and life together.

Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation was given birth by the Rev. Dr. Tilden H. Edwards, Jr., an Episcopal priest who offered Shalem’s first contemplative retreat in spring of 1973 and then, from his own spiritual journey, was led to form the Shalem Institute.

At the heart of those beginning years were Shalem’s weekly contemplative prayer groups that met in different locations around metropolitan Washington, DC, and attracted a variety of men and women from different faith traditions and different professions.

These early years are chronicled in Holy Meeting Ground, a compilation of interviews and Shalem newsletter excerpts that describe what many were seeking and found through Shalem programs and writings.

For over 40 years, Shalem has continued to offer retreats, workshops, and groups in the Mid-Atlantic area as well as in other regions of the US. In 1978, Shalem started its first in-depth program for supporting and nurturing spiritual directors/companions and now has five in-depth programs. Recent years have seen Shalem’s programs expand outside the US to Korea and South Africa and our new online spiritual resources, which are available worldwide.

Shalem’s spiritual lineage is rich and deep, and many historical spiritual figures, well-known and not so well-known, have influenced Shalem’s writings, programs and life together.

Stream of Contemplative History

Former staff member Gerald May created “A Stream of Selective Spiritual Contemplative History,” which was later added to by Tilden Edwards. Click to view or download PDF.

Below is an abridged Timeline of Contemplative Spirituality, based on the stream.