Testimonials

Long-Term Program Testimonials:

Pilgrimage Testimonials:

Retreat Day Testimonials:

Online Course Testimonials:

Long-Term Program Testimonials

Heart Longings: An Invitation to the Contemplative Path

“Looking back I can barely remember the girl who was scared of her first ever silent retreat in November, unsure even of what she was longing for. In her place is a woman quieted and fully engaged with the One who knows and loves her more than she ever knew, gently calling her back out and connecting her to the world around her.”

-Joanne Youn, Bethesda, Maryland

“I am so glad that I took the brave steps to join Heart Longings during a real time of uncertainty for me. It has been one of the better decisions I have made for my well-being. I had no idea how much I needed such a diverse group in which to experience and explore the world during such a crucial time. It gave me a new sense of purpose while creating new friendships and restoring my faith and hope in others. This time has reconnected my hand to God’s hand, and I feel the melodic awesomeness of God’s peace. I also feel the marching drums calling me to action, calling me to love fearlessly and to fight injustices.”

-Glen Vinson, Bowie, Maryland

“My desire as I began this journey was to ‘reconnect’ with God. I always looked forward to the monthly seminars and also to our group spiritual direction gatherings and to my sharing with my spiritual director. There was always an invitation for me to explore new territories and to be open to new paths.”

-Jacqueline Levesque, Haileybury, Ontario, Canada

Heart Longings provided a safe space with other sojourners that fed my soul and helped me regain my equilibrium.”

-Christina Guerra, Fair Oaks, Texas

“As we closed with our final gathering at the beginning of June, the sentiments expressed by many were how Heart Longings had helped us stay “grounded in the storm.” We had connected as a community of encouragement, learning and support with a common language and shared experiences. In the contemplative way, we honored our differing experiences and opinions and sought to be open, willing and receptive to the wide movement of the Spirit.”

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-Kimberly McOmber, Atlanta, Georgia

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Going Deeper: Clergy Spiritual Life and Leadership

“I thought that my circumstances and ministry setting had to change before I could have fuller communion with God. In the program, I discovered I didn’t have to wait for life to be different. It was already different deep within me, where God dwells….

-Amy Larson, IA

“It is just so exciting to see Clergy walk together, have bonds of fellowship and friendship, and also really experience what it means to live in true contemplative community.”

-Kendrick Curry, DC

“Listening to the guidance of wise spiritual mentors, interacting with Clergy colleagues all over the Unites States, learning new and varied spiritual and centering practices, and experiencing the deep nurture of silence all became transformative.”

-Scott Landis, San Diego, CA

“Those streams of living water are tasted in the countless ways of contemplative disciplines which Shalem offers to nurture our souls, mind, spirit and body in all the unknown paths of the labyrinth of Creation. Each of them shows the footprints of the Living Presence.”

Cristina Borges Alvarez, San Diego, CA

“[The Clergy program] was exceptionally timely and formative for me in peace ministry as I served with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Baghdad in 2003 during the early days of the U.S. invasion of Iraq… It also was very helpful for me in my pastoral efforts in the Mennonite Church as I worked to include those who identify as LGBT&Q as members and for marriage and ministry in the Church.”

-Weldon Nisley, San Seattle, WA

“In this program I learned spiritual prayer practices that set free some of my longing to notice God’s presence; attentiveness to the present moment; silence; art, walking; even play – all practices that nurture my soul to this day. But mostly I learned ways to listen: listen to the Holy One, listen to my own spiritual heart, listen to others, and listen to the congregation where I serve.”

-Elain Dent, PA

“In my first residency, I knew I was in the right place… We were hungry for true spiritual community, where we could share our hunger with others and our deep desire to be spiritually-grounded leaders.”

-Al Keeney, NY

“Shalem introduced me to the orientation and practice of contemplative spirituality, which has been life-giving. The Going Deeper program created space for God to breathe new life into dry bones through the movement of the Spirit.”

-John Nurnberger

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Nurturing the Call: Spiritual Guidance Program

“I believe Shalem’s Spiritual Guidance Program sets the gold standard for Spiritual Direction training…. Shalem nurtured my connection with Spirit by encouraging me to be still, cultivate quiet, and develop trust in Spirit as the real guide.”

-Lerita Coleman Brown

“Few things in life have been so gloriously transformative as my participation in Shalem’s Spiritual Guidance Program…. I’ve embraced a new way of being: one of abiding, of expanded seeing and knowing from the heart. I’ve learned a new language: one of silence, metaphor and imagery which have helped give expression to my encounters with God and those that I companion.”

-Kay Estepp

“The program was intense, deep, and at times challenging, taking me way out of my comfort zone. But above all else, it was one of the most extraordinary, life-giving, life-altering gifts in my life…. Decades later, the Spiritual Guidance Program continues to be a reliable oasis to which I return from my spiritual explorations and know the place again at yet deeper and deeper levels.”

-Phillip Cover

“This program opened me up to experiencing the Divine in new and unexpected ways… Through the support of this program, I developed a contemplative practice that grounds me and is the center of my vocation and ministry.”

-Cheryl Notari

“The gifts I have been given and developed through the Spiritual Guidance Program overflow into every facet of my life, from my family to my church leadership work to my relationships. Spiritual Direction is not something I use for a specific situation. Rather, it is the lens through which all of my life is lived.”

-Susan Etherton

“The first day of my first Shalem residency when I met the other people in my class, the people in my small group and all of the faculty, I had the experience of feeling totally at home with a group of people for the first time in my life. That feeling not only continued, but it actually grew and continues to grow.”

-David Canada

“At Shalem, in the benevolent humor of Spirit, I was invited to go deeper in my own Christian tradition while being returned to the contemplative practices I had found in Buddhism that had been so nourishing to me in my own seeking. That there is a community of such seekers is a great joy and encouragement to me.”

-Cece Balboni

“The reflection papers, the responses, the sense of being prayerfully guided, the amazing growth and spirit in the two years of the program are still powerfully with me today.”

-June Schulte

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Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats

“When I entered the common room for the first residency, it felt like coming home to something I didn’t even know I’d been looking for: a place of spiritual nurture grounded in unity; a place to explore an open and loving presence in a simple, profound way; a place to offer and receive support. I experienced so much more than training — I found a community, a people, a home.

-Jamie Deering, Port Ludlow, WA

“At Shalem, the leaders revealed their personal passion to us through each teaching. Their words and presence were alive, resonating and bouncing off of all of our hearts. Together we laughed, we walked, we played with art, we talked a lot over meals. They truly entered into the community with us.”

-Susan Rowland, San Jose, CA

“What I experienced was a call into the greater spiritual depth with the Presence, and the shallow waters where I had been wading were just no longer satisfying for my soul. Experiencing what Shalem offers was less about me accomplishing or developing or learning as much as being encouraged to be guided by God to live the life I am supposed to lead as a spiritual being.”

-Ian White Maher, NY

“The course offers a radical hospitality, consistent with Henri Nouwens’s teachings: a hospitality which offers a spacious emptiness which welcomes in strangers, allows them to remember who they are and how they belong, and is large and safe enough to encourage transformation. To me, it was a homecoming to a community where I belonged and where I felt loved into being.”

-Mimi Saayman, Cape Town, South Africa

“My own life was transformed by my Shalem experience through the fine quality of its contemplative leadership; by its provision of rich, spiritual resources; and by its intentional settings which cultivated silence and the ensuing depth which nurtured an awareness of one’s communion with God within and around oneself.”

-Linda Longmire, Halifax, NS, Canada

“All that I experienced in ritual, worship and focused dialogue, both in my peer group and our larger plenary sessions, has helped me make better lived sense of the purpose, paths, and fruits of contemplative prayer, for and with those I teach and pastor.”

-Ridgeway Addison, DC

“In Shalem leadership program, I learned that a true master is the Holy Spirit; Whenever I celebrated Eucharist service or leading a retreat even in my daily life I try to make spaces where the Holy Spirit can act through. Let the Holy Spirit come in our room!”

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-Ambrose Kim, South Korea

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The Soul of Leadership

“I now have a very clear sense of being a leader with the integrity that I want to have, clearly based on the values that I have, and with a really clear sense of purpose about what I’m doing. That’s really helpful for the team that I manage, for stakeholders, and for trustees in the new charity that we’ve been able to set up. Over the course of this program, my work life has really blossomed.”

-Tess Bailey-Sayer

“Through each of the residentials, as well, I’ve built a confidence, and the way that I’m teaching has evolved. I’m teaching from a place that feels led from [the heart] rather than being led from the curriculum or the outside world. Being able to test that out and come back and share that with the group and facilitators and then go back and do some more practice has been really helpful.”

-Kerry Clarke

“The world right now needs more leaders who are more caring, kind, compassionate, open. Unfortunately, this isn’t what’s normally taught in leadership courses. Leadership is often associated with the vision of the heroic leader – someone who is decisive… and takes command and control… What the world needs is leaders who listen, who are open, who are vulnerable, who make decisions with others. And it’s those types of skills – based in your soul and your heart – which is what the course offers.”

– Nic Burton, North Yorkshire

“You find you come to each residential just longing for that space to pause, to reflect, to go deep, to explore, to find new insights, to bring some of the challenges, the problems you’re facing in every day life. Those residentials are like oases in many ways, oases in a very busy life, busy work schedule… My observation would be – for myself, for those I’ve seen going through the program – they come out of those residentials with renewed purpose, renewed energy (the batteries have been recharged), with renewed connection with soul. And that makes all of us better leaders in the world.”

-Margie Buchanan-Smith, grad and current co-leader

“Through the Soul of Leadership Program, I gained the guidance I needed to shift into the role of a leader within my job in early childhood education. This included understanding my own mission and vision and gifts. To this day, I return to the practices I learned for making decisions and discerning the role I want to play in each and every challenging situation (and believe me, my field is full of challenges right now!).”

-Linda Schumacher

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Crossing the Threshold: Contemplative Foundations for Emerging Leaders
(Formerly known as YALLI)

“Instead of focusing on what God was inviting me to, I was focusing on what I wanted to be invited to. And it wasn’t working. This form of control is the enemy of the contemplative life. It’s what the brain craves. All of this striving and ‘should-ing’ taught me how little was actually within my control, and that as a contemplative, I would have to be more flexible….”

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-Aryn Davis, graduate of YALLI and current co-leader of Crossing the Threshold

“After years of apologizing for being an introvert, YALLI also helped me to name myself as a contemplative leader by owning the authentic ways of being that God invites in my life: deep listening, co-creation, prayer, and other contemplative practices. By listening to the abundance of God’s invitations, I have learned to ground my life and leadership in God’s loving presence…”

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– Sarah Forti, graduate of YALLI and current co-leader of Crossing the Threshold

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Pilgrimage Testimonials

In the Footsteps of St. Francis & St. Clare: A Pilgrimage to Assisi

“As a participant in the May 2019 pilgrimage to Assisi, I would like to describe why I would encourage and recommend without any reservation this extraordinary pilgrimage to anyone who might be considering it. Beauty, wonder, cuisine and inspiration truly infuse the steps, the walls, the very air in this storied town.

Three shining realities persuade one to say yes to this pilgrimage: First, every pilgrim can rest in the sure knowledge that the co-leaders have poured thorough-going thought and care into the preparations that imbue and uphold the overall structure and daily flow of the pilgrimage. Great sensitivity is evidenced in the daily rhythms and provisions that create serene spaces for individual and group quiet contemplative practices. Margaret Benefiel and Julie Pennington-Russell, this year’s co-leaders, along with Chuck McCorkle in years past, distinguish themselves in this regard as spiritual guides.

Secondly, the structured rhythms of the day interface organically with the activities of each day. One will walk the very steps of St. Francis and St. Clare in an ancient city on a hill that, for generations, illuminated historic avenues for peace. One will find the streets and walls and trees still whisper, guiding you toward fresh, pastoral pastures.

Finally, one will be struck by invigorating and illuminating thoughts and connections that heretofore may have eluded one. The beauty of the history, the sweetness of the hospitality offered by the nuns providing our comfortable, scenic accommodations and the richness of the spirituality presented…they all beckon the potential pilgrim to say yes. Yes to quiet illumination. Yes to sure refuge. And yes to joy-filled, spiritual grounding and discovery in the company of good friends.”

– Leslie Mason Alford

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An Anchor for the Soul: Iona Pilgrimage

“I appreciated the slow, prayerful time together as community and in nature. The plenary sessions and lectures were incredible and life changing. This pilgrimage has brought me deep healing.”

– Past Pilgrim

“To experience the [journey] in a prayerful pilgrim community has been an extraordinary gift for me. I appreciate the careful and inspired planning that went into making each step a mindful, spirit-filled opportunity to open our hearts to creation.”

– Past Pilgrim

“I certainly am returning home with a heightened sense of God’s love and our potential to know that love and a renewed desire to help make that love manifest in the world.”

– Past Pilgrim

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Retreat Day Testimonials

Holy Interruptions

“This was a chance to rest deep inside the spiritual heart and to listen for God’s knocking wherever that might occur. It was a heartfelt joy.”

– Joe T.

“This is a very accessible, practical, low carbon footprint way to deepen one’s contemplative way of being in the world.”

– Mary Lou D.

“The openness of the spaces around the offerings was perhaps the best part for me, as I could take all the time I needed, rather than have the retreat move on ahead of my readiness.”

– June M. S.

“I appreciated the personal, simple, spiritual richness of an online retreat day. It contained all the elements of a live retreat, but accessible to your own schedule. I needed to remember taking time to be intimate with God and this is one way to do it.”

– Pam S.

“An online retreat day is a special gift. It allows one to commit to a short amount of time, to be fully present, and to benefit from doing this where it is convenient for you.”

– Clair U.

“The Shalem experiences that are offered are always a welcome and rewarding time to pause from our full-scheduled days in order to be attuned to God’s presence and be reminded that we have access to the Beloved any time we quiet our minds and open our hearts.”

– Connie S.

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Howard Thurman: Overview and Links to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“This course was life changing. I had heard of Howard Thurman and had even read some of his materials, but this course really created a strong desire and determination to continue studying his work.”

– Patrice

“Howard Thurman’s thinking is so conducive to a retreat day, and the presenter did a lovely job curating his ideas and translating them into invitations to go deeper with God and into the world. This was a very well-designed, accessible retreat, and I’m likely to do another one with Shalem because of my experience.”

– Vanessa C.

“A welcome respite amidst our politically polarized world in order to be reminded of the resources of our inner life we can draw on to stay grounded and find courage to resist being crippled by the demagogues of our day, and motivation to contribute to constructive social change.”

– Carol A.

“I highly recommend this experience. Understanding the influence that Howard Thurman has had and the life that shaped that influence will be transformative, especially in our culture that is starving for more like him.”

– Jeff F.

“I was excited to see an online retreat using Howard Thurman’s material. I am part of a group that engages in dialogues about diversity. I invited other spiritual directors to join me in participating in this online retreat. We each engaged with the material individually over a period of 4-6 weeks and then joined together for an online group spiritual direction meeting to share our experiences. Every participant shared that they were enriched through their encounter with this retreat and would be interested in doing something similar again in the future!”

– Alice Y.

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Contemplative Earth Awareness

“I appreciated the calm, nondirective, open, inviting nature of the experience. I was reawakened to some aliveness in the Great Mystery which I found very satisfying.”

– Mel B.

“The Earth Awareness Day provided the structure and guidance I was looking for in setting aside a Sabbath Day for myself. Nature has always been a place where I feel closer to the Divine. This online retreat built on that foundation and drew me deeper into communion with God as the ‘shy, wild animal of my soul’ showed itself. I was very grateful for the opportunity to rest in God for a day, and be held in God’s Creation. I ended the day refreshed, renewed and inspired to carry my experience into my more active life – and to share it with others.”

– Donna A.

“The guided meditation is helpful in growing to be at peace with myself and surroundings.”

– Terry L.

“I have found this one-day, at-home retreat to be a refreshing break, a pick-me-up as the season changes in nature and in my life.”

– Kay L.

“For anyone with a handicap or trouble traveling, these e-courses provide a great way of continuing our spiritual journey to the Divine!”

– Barbara H.

“These Shalem online retreats are like the ‘living water’ that Jesus promised so that our spiritual thirst can be quenched and our spirits revived.”

– Connie S.

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Online Course Testimonials

Contemplative Leadership Seminar

“The content that was provided was rich and varied. It was helpful to be able to use the resources at my own pace, and schedule time that fit into my day. The presentation was prayerful, gentle… The course in itself modeled compassion. The experience offered new ways for me to see Leadership, while affirming some things that I have believed and intuited before. Thank you for this opportunity!”

– Mary Rose K.

“This course helped me slow down to consider leading from the heart once again. It reminded me of the value of continuous practice of compassion in leadership and prompted me to return to our original Source of all power.”

– Karen D.

“This seminar helped my team understand and practice deep listening and compassion in our work together. As a result, we stayed more grounded and were more effective in our work together.”

– Past Participant in a group

“[This seminar] challenged and inspired me personally, and more importantly, it led our team into deep and meaningful conversations about contemplative leadership. We were able to share issues with which we struggle personally and be of support and encouragement to one another. We’re a Team on a deeper level now and that can only mean good things for our shared leadership.”

– Past Participant in a group

“It was such a gift to be able to participate together from afar, to journal and share reflections during the course of daily work. The class brought us closer as we shared the ways that power and compassion can be shifted and viewed in countercultural ways. Our hearts opened wider to each other and to our work.”

– Past Participant in a group

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Living from the Spiritual Heart

“This online experiential course is a wonderful way to experience a bit of ‘the Shalem way’ at home. It is a deeply nourishing reminder of the yearning beneath all others that draws us to our true home.”

– Dawn Peck

“This e-course was a valuable tool for me to explore ways to deepen my daily spiritual practice. Grounded in that place of the spiritual heart, I begin to discern God’s call of love (not just the voices of my ego and mind) and am then able to respond more faithfully to that call in my work and my relationships.”

– Elaine D.

“This course has influenced how I live and act in the ordinary and the stressful moments of my daily life. I have noticed myself pausing to ask from where am I responding and trying to choose to respond [from] the spiritual heart.”

– Rebecca P.

“My daily prayer is that I love God more each day. I believe this course was a Grace that is allowing me to do that and to go to a deeper spiritual level.”

– Maureen B.

“I appreciated the opportunity to learn to distinguish between seeing with my ego, my mind and my spiritual heart. I felt gently and lovingly encouraged to continue to seek my spiritual heart. Tilden embodied loving compassion as a teacher and exemplified the spiritual heart reaching out to us. I felt moments of unity with my own soul and the world around me through the space he held for us, for me.”

– Donna A.

“Tilden Edwards carries a healing presence that invites gentle self-compassion, love, and grace as we reflect on the calling of our spiritual heart. Being a seasoned instructor in contemplative wisdom practices, I welcomed the time to not have a ‘teacher’ mind, but to just BE and learn and bask in my heart. The sage wisdom is deep and I will carry forth this journey to connect deeply with the divine.”

– Denise P.

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Open Hands, Willing Hearts

“This course, as with other Shalem offerings, is well thought out, open, spacious, and encourages honest sharing and vulnerability both within and between participants. Shalem leaders assume a deep and growing spirituality in each participant and are always respectful of that awareness.”

– Carol I.

“I have participated in Shalem programs for more than a decade. The online course on discernment, as every course I’ve taken, was well designed and provided many opportunities for spiritual reflection and practice. I find there are few programs for clergy that expect and provide the deepening that Shalem demands. I am clearer on God’s dreams and will for me after this course and what else could one ask for a class on discernment?”

– Don S.

“This online course helped me to gently notice and reflect on the totality of God’s movement over the course of my life. New “calls” emerge over the years, but they have their rootedness in what has gone before. I also noticed the wealth of companions who have encouraged my faith. Thinking about who they are and how they inspire me helps define who I desire to become myself.”

– Valerie H.

“The ‘Open Hands, Willing Hearts’ online course with Shalem was truly challenging for me but deeply significant. The questions inviting reflection touched the core of my inner being, pain, struggles and desires. Sharing online with a community of pilgrims was an absolutely beautiful and inspiring journey. This course was definitely a blessing and a graceful noticing of God’s presence on my path.”

– Jacqueline L.

“I am more aware of areas that ‘trip me up’ on my journey with God. I am inspired to ask every day, ‘What is mine to do, Lord?’ I see a thread from my earliest years and throughout my life of God’s guidance, a common drawing for deep relationships on a spiritual level that has been there in every stage of my life. On and on!! I am grateful for this study!”

– Frances M.

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Living Word, Living Way

“This course helped me to move further into contemplative prayer and contemplative living. It was both a reminder of my intentions and an enabler of progress on my journey.”

– Jean E.

“This online course was a perfect way to help deepen my spiritual prayer life. The questions were thought provoking, and led me deeper into personal reflection. The weekly videos from Patience were filled with a variety of information that I was able to integrate into my daily life. I highly recommend this online course to anyone wanting to deepen their spiritual practice of prayer.”

– Edwina L.

“The course was a great reminder of the richness and breadth of God’s presence that is experienced through so many different forms of contemplative prayer.”

– Kim

“This course awaken[ed] a strong desire to bask in God’s loving presence. The Contemplative Prayer course offered a chance to practice different prayer techniques. Reading the other journal postings gave a sense of community. I have used the gratitude meditation with some of my elderly patients, with poignant results. Some of my patients now have the daily assignment to write their gratitude list every morning.”

– Ruth

“While it might seem strange to think of an online course as a community, this course definitely was. It was delightful to discover other contemplatives as we struggle and grow in our practices.”

– Anne

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Opening to the Spirit

“This course opened me to the possibilities of God’s Spirit already working within my spirit. It helped me begin the process of letting go of my need to control and to simply open myself to God’s Presence. It was a relief to hear again and again that the simplest practices are the best and to do what seems most natural to me… This experience has re-energized my spiritual life and has enabled me to go to a deeper place.”

– Carol W.

“This opportunity for spiritual deepening has helped me to refresh long standing spiritual practices. During the class I found myself discovering all over again the delight of opening space up in heart and mind and body to allow God’s spirit to live and move and shape me. To humbly remember to have a beginner’s mind in approaching silence and simply show up in trust, has been a great delight and consolation for me.”

– Nancy S.

“This course offered a way for me to become nearer to the Loving Source of all that we are. It provided a way to be in touch with others who are seeking the same blessings. Together we have explored the possibility that contemplative prayer may be a way to listen more closely to what God wants for us. I am grateful for Carol and for my fellow pilgrims.”

– Marian Penney R.

“This program changed my prayer life completely. I always felt I prayed all the time, but developed through this guidance, a specific time, period, and total reservation of prayer space. It seems so natural now, where I didn’t even do it 6 weeks ago. I also increased my understanding, through the guided program, of contemplative prayer. It is now the most important part of my Quest.”

– Jerry K.

“Shalem provides a safe space and nurturing instructors who guide one to a deeper understanding of how to experience the Presence and appreciate that God is always with us. I recommend the online course to those who have full days and yet wish to be fully present to God in the midst of the busyness.”

– Deborah S.

“The pace and content of this course were reflective of contemplative practice. I was very grateful to have this renewal and refresher of primary elements of contemplative prayer, especially during the very busy Advent season.”

– Dana Greene

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Mission

Our mission is to nurture contemplative living and leadership.

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.

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