My Latest Initiative, or, What is a “Contemplative in Residence”?


Friends, I am honored to announce that I have embraced a special relationship with one of Atlanta’s most progressive and visionary spiritual communities. I have been named the “Contemplative in Residence” for Zeitgeist Atlanta.

What is a Contemplative in Residence?

As you may know, many universities or non-profit organizations will appoint an “artist in residence” or “writer in residence” — a creative professional who becomes formally affiliated with the organization as a creative, but also as a teacher, researcher, and conversation partner. One of my early mentors, the contemplative author Kenneth Leech, was for many years a “theologian in residence” at an Anglican parish church in East London. My relationship with Zeitgeist is similar to these other residency programs.

Zeitgeist, the organization that has welcomed me as their Contemplative in Residence, describes itself like this: “Zeitgeist is Education, Practice, and Community for the spiritually independent. Join us to connect with teaching, practices, events, and one another in an environment with contemplative & perennial focus.” You can find their website at or on Facebook  at @ZGAtl. I’ve had a relationship with ZG for a while now — they hosted the book launch party for Unteachable Lessons and are co-hosting the virtual book launch event for Eternal Heart and so I’m delighted that we are now creating a more formal role for me to play in the organization.

At the most basic level, it means I’m praying for the Zeitgeist community, I’m engaged on an ongoing basis with their leadership to explore ways that I can serve their students and membership. It also means that I have a more “formal” relationship with Zeitgeist as a teacher of contemplative practice.

We envision one significant learning opportunity each year as well as other programs that may seem appropriate. For example: in August I’m doing a day-long workshop/retreat on the foundations of Christian Mysticism (incidentally, this program will take place online and you don’t have to be a member of Zeitgeist to participate! Just saying. and this is actually part of a larger series on World Mysticism — I recommend you sign up for the entire series).

There’s a little bit of “bragging rights” involved in this new relationship as well: the Zeitgeist folks and I are fans of each other (!) so we each get to talk up the residency. You can see what Zeitgeist has to say about this initiative on their website by clicking here. Likewise, I’m thrilled to be associated with Zeitgeist; even though it is a relatively young and small (for now) community, I am impressed by the energy and vision that surrounds its mission: to provide spiritual companionship, formation for spiritual directors, and opportunities for personal spiritual deepening, aimed primarily at the “spiritually independent” community — those who, for whatever reason, are not affiliated with a specific religious tradition. Of course, contemplatives with traditional religious affiliations are also welcome — I continue to be a practicing Christian, which the Zeitgeist community accepts completely. For my part, I have long felt that part of the mission of mystical and contemplative spirituality is to reach beyond the boundaries that are often imposed by institutional religion. Zeitgeist provides me the perfect forum where I can explore this important dimension of the contemplative life: not in place of my work as a practicing Christian contemplative, but in creative and visionary dialogue with it.

Finally, I should say a word about the financial relationship here. This is a non-stipendiary position: there’s no salary or wages involved, other than sharing the receipts whenever I teach a program or lead a retreat sponsored by Zeitgeist. But as an IRS-recognized non-profit organization, Zeitgeist has offered to provide funding for my residency whenever donors stipulate that their gift should support the Contemplative in Residence. So, if anyone wants to provide financial support for my ministry, but wants to do it through a tax-deductible gift, there’s now a means for doing so. You can donate to Zeitgeist, and specify that you are supporting the Contemplative in Residence; Zeitgeist will process your donation as a tax-deductible gift, and after deducting their own banking and processing costs will share 80% of the proceeds with me. It’s a win-win-win scenario: the donor makes a tax-deductible gift; I receive financial support for my ministry, and Zeitgeist will receive a portion of the proceeds to support their overall mission. If you want more information about supporting Zeitgeist (and the Contemplative in Residence, i.e. me), please reach out to Zeitgeist’s executive director, Debonee Morgan (click the link for contact information).

Debonee Morgan & Carl McColman

So… if you’re in Atlanta and/or want to connect with folks who balance appreciation for the beauty of Christian mysticism with an equally deep appreciation of all the world’s great contemplative traditions, check out Zeitgeist. It just might be a home for you, regardless of whether you identify as Christian or as spiritually independent. And sign up for their email list, since I’ll be showing up on their calendar from time to time!


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About the author

Carl McColman

Soul Friend and Storyteller. Lay Cistercian, Centering Prayer Presenter, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Speaker, Teacher, Retreat Leader.

By Carl McColman

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