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Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation

I have a wonderful and affectionate regard for Washington, DC’s Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. It may not be as widely known as Contemplative Outreach International or the Center for Action and Contemplation, but Shalem still has a global reach, offers a distinctive and beautiful approach to contemplative spirituality, and — most significant for me — was the setting where I was introduced to contemplative practice and to the ministry of spiritual direction. My first spiritual director, Lin Ludy, was a Shalem associate, and to this day I maintain close contact with a number of contemplative leaders associated with the Shalem Institute.

Shalem was founded in the 1970s, making it one of the oldest international contemplative ministries that remains active today. The founder, Tilden Edwards, is an Episcopal priest whose interest in Tibetan Buddhism led him to spend several months on retreat at California’s Nyingma Institute during a sabbatical. At the end of that retreat, the leader of the Nyingma Institute, Tarthang Tulku, encouraged Edwards to return to his work as a Christian priest, but to dedicate himself to recovering the lost treasures of Christian spirituality. The Shalem Institute was a result of that commitment.

A number of key contemplative figures of our time have been associated with Shalem. In addition to Tilden Edwards, Gerald G. May, Margaret Benefiel, and Rosemary Dougherty have all been part of the Shalem family.

Shalem is an ecumenical organization grounded in Christian contemplative spirituality, yet drawing on the wisdom of many wisdom traditions. Here’s how the organization describes itself on the Shalem Website:

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.

Among the programs Shalem offers are formation programs for spiritual directors/companions, personal spiritual deepening programs for anyone interested in growing spiritually, and support for clergy, young adults, and anyone in leadership positions. Shalem also sponsors retreats and pilgrimages. Every spring Shalem hosts the Gerald May Seminar in which a leading contemplative author/teacher is invited to speak; previous presenters have included Cynthia Bourgeault, Mirabai Starr, Bernard McGinn and John Philip Newell. Click here to see videos from past Gerald May Seminars.

To learn more about Shalem and to see current programming, visit www.shalem.org.

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