Do you yearn to reconnect with your original call and passion?
Are you searching for a more grounded way of embracing and responding to the challenges and blessings of ministry?
Would you treasure a supportive and caring colleague group with whom to share your journey?
Are you looking for a new way to live and lead faithfully?
If these questions stir your heart, then the Spirit might be inviting you to consider Going Deeper: Clergy Spiritual Life and Leadership.
“I believe a new church is slowly emerging as this fresh attention to life in the Spirit becomes front and center in a congregation’s life.”
~ Tilden Edwards, Embracing the Call to Spiritual Depth: Gifts for Contemplative Living
For clergy serving as pastors of congregations or as chaplains, expectations can often be overwhelming. Balance is hard to find, burnout is all too common, and clergy can feel especially isolated and torn in many different directions. With too much to do and the desire to do everything perfectly, a life that should be centered in God and committed to spiritual practice is all too quickly overtaken by stress and time management issues.
Shalem’s clergy program was created to address these challenges and provides an opportunity for clergy of all denominations to focus intentionally on the inner work that can foster a transformation of heart, and an openness to what is being invited, for themselves and their communities. In the face of administrative and cultural pressures, clergy are invited to “center down,” as Howard Thurman describes, and listen for the Spirit’s guidance in challenging times.
The description of “clergy spiritual life and leadership” points to the two focus points of the program: the nurture of a transformation of the spiritual heart and the opportunity to embody a Spirit-led practice of ministry. In this way, we discover that how we listen shapes how we live.
The program’s structure of peer and lay listening groups creates a way to journey together and discern next steps that is very different from task force and committee work. The two eight-day retreats offer a space for refreshment and renewal, with plenty of time for prayer, worship, contemplative practice and the sharing of joys and challenges.
Living open to the Spirit in personal and community life can provide the foundation needed for authentic vision and action. Both the structure and content of Going Deeper: Clergy Spiritual Life and Leadership offer a contemplative orientation that encourages an immediate openness to God’s grace and freedom to embrace a new way of being, both personally and collectively.
Timeline & Components
Early Bird: March 1, 2021
Regular: April 1, 2021
July 2021 to September 2022
First Retreat: July 20-27, 2021 (via Zoom)
Second Retreat: July 5-12, 2022 (via Zoom)
Two Zoom Retreats with At-Home Work
Much of the work of Going Deeper: Clergy Spiritual Life and Leadership happens at home within the context of one’s ministry. The program is anchored by two eight-day Zoom retreats, which include presentations on contemplative prayer and leadership, fellowship with peers, worship, and spacious time for rest, reflection, and renewal. Shalem is mindful of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, with ongoing concerns related to the pandemic as well as the potential for decreased congregational budgets. Even so, especially in these tension-filled times, it is all the more essential for clergy to tap into that grounded, centered place in communion with the Beloved. To that end, the entire clergy 2021-2022 program will take place on Zoom (with some phone calls, email, etc.) In addition to offering flexibility with scheduling, holding the Going Deeper program on Zoom will allow us to offer a substantial reduction in the tuition cost—hopefully allowing even more to share in these meaningful, soul-restoring conversations. In addition to the reduced tuition, Shalem has scholarships available, thus removing any cost barriers to participation.
At-home work includes:
- Readings focused on contemplative presence and spiritually grounded leadership;
- Personal spiritual practice supported, if possible, by a spiritual director or spiritual direction group and, where helpful, by keeping a spiritual journal;
- Periodic reflections, deep listening and caring support with a peer group of participants;
- A visit to an innovative, risk-taking church of your choosing;
- Creation of a listening group of laity from your congregation for spiritual deepening and mutual support;
- At least two days of solitary retreat time;
- A final integration paper that allows you to look back with God over your experience throughout the program in order to learn what has been of value to integrate into your life and leadership.
- Fellowship and stimulus of other contemplatively-minded clergy;
- Rest, renewal and guided silent retreat;
- Presentations with individual and small group reflection on various themes central to discovering how to live and lead from the spiritual heart, such as
Nurturing Spirit-led leadership in yourself and with your faith community
Personal and congregational ways for discernment based on deep listening
Experiencing new and ancient practices of contemplative prayer
Dealing with conflict and anger from a contemplative heart that holds compassion and courage in equal measure
Listening for the Spirit’s shaping of the future of the church
Collegiality with spiritually motivated congregants and other clergy
Touching the Holy across faith lines
Engaging social action with a contemplative heart
Presence to God in worship
Discernment as spiritually grounded decision-making;
- Inspiration drawn from the lives of past and present spiritual leaders;
- Honest spiritual community and the beginnings of a network of mutual support and practical learning.
A Certificate of Completion is awarded upon completion of all program requirements.
Chaplains may obtain Continuing Education Units for completing this program. Past graduates have been granted CEU’s for Shalem’s programs by the Association of Professional Chaplains.
Stuart Higginbotham, Co-Director of the Program, is an Episcopal priest who serves as the rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville, GA. He holds an MDiv from Columbia Theological Seminary and a DMin from the School of Theology at the University of the South. He is a graduate of Going Deeper: Clergy Spiritual Life and Leadership and co-editor of Contemplation and Community: A Gathering of Fresh Voices for a Living Tradition. The heart of his vocation lies at the intersection of contemplative practice, congregational development, and clergy spiritual leadership.
Julie Pennington-Russell, Co-Director of the Program, serves as senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington, DC. She earned her MDiv from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, CA. She is a graduate of Going Deeper: Clergy Spiritual Life and Leadership and is in the 2021 class of Nurturing the Call: Spiritual Guidance Program. Julie served three previous congregations in San Francisco, Waco (TX) and Decatur (GA). One of her greatest joys is planting and nurturing contemplative groups within congregational life. She experiences closeness with the Beloved in the daily rhythms of urban life.