Founded in 2021, The Shalem Community of Color/ BIPOC Advisory Committee was established to gain a deeper understanding of our community, enhance connections within it, inform our programs, and provide recommendations to support Shalem’s ongoing efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion. The committee also organizes and convenes virtual gatherings to support and grow the community.

Members of the Leadership Team

Fay C. Acker

Fay Acker, co-chair of the Advisory Committee, is ordained in the Presbyterian Church USA and serves as a Minister Member at Large, having previously served as a Parish Associate at Northminster Presbyterian Church. A graduate of Hampton University and the Howard University School of Divinity, she also has served as the Associate Dean and as the Director of Spiritual Guidance and Pastoral Care at Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel, Howard University. She is a graduate of Shalem’s Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups & Retreats Program and is currently part of Shalem’s Nurturing the Call: Spiritual Guidance Program.

Alfonso “Trey” Campbell III

Alfonso “Trey” Campbell is ordained in the Baptist Church. In addition to ministry, Trey is also a published photographer. He has served as Youth and Young Minister since 2014 and is the current Associate Pastor for Youth, Young Adults, and College Ministry at Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, MD. His work in both realms of photography and ministry is to empower others to see the beauty of our one precious life. Trey roots his work in organizing people around their power and the creative possibilities that can be found in communal gatherings. A graduate of Howard University with a B.S. in Psychology, he earned his MDiv from Virginia Union School of Theology. A graduate of Shalem’s Young Adult Life and Leadership program, Trey is an Adjunct for Crossing the Threshold: Contemplative Foundations for Emerging Leaders. He also serves on Shalem’s Board of Directors.

Aryn K. Davis

Aryn is the co-director of Crossing the Threshold: Contemplative Foundations for Emerging Leaders. She is an educator and mental health professional in DC schools. Her passion is bringing others to a place of deeper awareness and full presence in heart, body, and mind, to ultimately experience freedom. Aryn is a graduate of Shalem’s Young Adult Life and Leadership program, and she is a facilitator in Shalem’s Group Spiritual Direction Facilitator Training program. Prior to serving as a Shalem leader, Aryn worked in education as a teacher, a reading specialist, and currently is working as a counselor and the Director of Mental Health in a public charter school. She holds a B.A. from Howard University, a Master’s degree in Education from George Mason University, and a Master’s degree in Counseling and Human Development from George Washington University.

Natalie Cone Ddamulira

Natalie is a Training and Facilitation Specialist based in the Washington, DC metro area. With a background in community engagement and strategic partnerships, her work is informed by over 10 years of experience holding space for organizations committed to racial, reproductive, and electoral justice. She also supports community as a yoga and meditation teacher. Natalie is a graduate of Shalem’s Young Adult Life and Leadership Program and currently serves on the Shalem Board of Directors.

Susan Gatea

Susan is Pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Washington, DC. She graduated from Trinity Lutheran Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree.

Bo Karen Lee

Bo is associate professor of spiritual theology and Christian formation and is the Founder and Director of the Center for Contemplative Leadership at Princeton Theological Seminary. She earned her BA in religious studies from Yale University, her MDiv from Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois, and her ThM and PhD from Princeton Seminary. Bo recently completed her term as President of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality, and is on the editorial board of the journal, Spiritus.

Westina Matthews

Westina Matthews, co-chair of the Advisory Committee, is an author, spiritual director, and retreat leader who has found a way to connect with others through her books, essays, and teaching. For the past twelve years, she taught Contemplative Spiritual Direction at The General Theological Seminary. Westina is chair of the board of Spiritual Directors International; a former Shalem board member; and is the lead editor of Soul Food: Nourishing Essays on Contemplative Living and Leadership (2023). She earned her PhD in Education from the University of Chicago; completed two postdoctoral year-long research fellowships; and, after retiring from a 24 year career on Wall Street, was a Fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University where she studied women and girls of faith in Burundi.

Leonard McMahon

Leonard McMahon is Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care, Spirituality, and Political Theology at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. He holds a doctorate in political theology from the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley, an MA in Religious Studies from UC Santa Barbara, and an MDiv from Harvard Divinity School. His work explores the relationship between theology and democratic citizenship. Through his consultancy, Common Ground Dialogue (, he works to bring diverse citizens into deeper conversation for the sake of our democracy.

Lydia E. Mercado

Lydia E. Mercado is enjoying retirement as Coordinator of Spiritual Direction at Richmond Hill Spiritual Retreat Center in Richmond, VA where she completed the RUAH School of Spiritual Guidance. She is a graduate of Shalem’s Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats and the Group Spiritual Direction Workshop. Her most memorable Shalem experience is the contemplative pilgrimage to Cuba in January 2014. Lydia grew up in Puerto Rico and Massachusetts. She was introduced to Shalem by her late father, Rev. Dr. Luis Fidel Mercado, a Shalem graduate (1987) of the Spiritual Direction Program. She previously worked on large infrastructure projects, and transportation workforce development and education. She graduated with a Master of City Planning degree from Harvard University and from Andover Newton Theological School with a Master of Divinity degree.

Ostein Truitt

Ostein Truitt recently retired after 20 amazing years serving as the assistant pastor of St. John Baptist Church in Columbia, MD. Her experience with Shalem includes graduating from its Spiritual Guidance Program and the Transforming Community Program, and she is a former board member. She currently offers individual and group Spiritual Direction, leads Contemplative Spiritual Groups & Retreats and serves as a Shalem adjunct faculty member and a participant in Shalem Contemplatives of Color/BIPOC Advisory Committee.

Soul Food: Nourishing Essays on Contemplative Living and Leadership

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Shalem Institute, this collection of experiential and academic essays offers modern contemplative reflections from new and renowned voices in spiritual leadership.

Co-edited by Shalem graduate and board member Westina Matthews, Shalem’s Executive Director Margaret Benefiel, and Jackson Droney, Shalem’s Director of Operations and Online Learning, Soul Food offers contemporary and inclusive insights to the ageless challenges of contemplative spirituality. This commemorative anthology features 17 essays written from the rich experience of Shalem’s leaders and teachers.

Exploring numerous rich perspectives on contemporary Christianity—from gender identity and theological languaging to issues of recovery, welcome and inclusion, decolonization, and social action, among others—the authors are unafraid to tackle new perspectives, all while staying firmly rooted in the core of their faith. Anyone interested in immersing themselves in these topics will be well served here.”
– Rev. SeiFu Singh-Molares, Executive Director, Spiritual Directors International


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.