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Online Presence

by Gerald May

In 1995, when the Internet was still fairly young, Shalem staff member Jerry May reflected on the spiritual possibilities of this new online space for himself and for Shalem. Here is an edited, shortened version of the original article that appeared in the Shalem News, Summer 1995.
I have been thinking for several years about the power of contemplative presence in this unexplored expanse of people-connections. What new meanings might it bring to spiritual community, guidance, and support? How might Shalem be invited to participate? Last winter I began exploring in earnest. At first I expected to have difficulty remaining prayerful and contemplative in such high-tech territory, but the sheer immensity and ever-freshness of the landscape made it easy. Like mountain forests or ocean depths, the online world carries a feeling of unknown wilderness, full of mystery and endless possibility. With a little grace, I find I am just given an open, prayerful attitude in such an atmosphere.
In this virtual environment I have found people gathering for dialogue and support concerning exactly the issues I was seeking: contemplative spirituality, mysticism, spiritual formation, the heart-journey with God. I have discovered that people in this setting often share more intimately and are more vulnerable with one another than in most face-to-face encounters. Some of us have chosen to call it "faceless intimacy." It reminds me very much of the intimacy of silence in old-time Shalem groups where people didn't know one another's names or occupations yet were so deeply aware of shared intent and common support.
I also have found spiritual guidance happening in rapid, surprising, and profound ways online, both in group settings and one-to-one. There's something about this new means of communicating that seems to give the Spirit extra freedom to fly, though perhaps, as in any wilderness, people are more open to Her surprises. Whatever it is, She certainly seems to enjoy it. More often than I can count, I have been moved to tears by people's heart-sharings scrolling across my screen and deeply gratified that something I've contributed has touched them as well. People who have known me in other settings tell me I'm different online: more free, somehow more myself.

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Aug 12 - YALLI Program Application Deadline
Sept 18-21 Group Spiritual Direction Workshop
Sept 18 - Oct 30 Opening to the Spirit - online
Sept 24 - Oct 1 - Pilgrimage in the Pacific NW
Oct 5-26 Contemplative Leadership Seminar
Oct 9-13 Shalem Society Gathering
Oct 30 - Dec 4 Living Word, Living Way - online

Do you desire support and enrichment for your prayer life?  
Do you wish to develop or deepen a consistent spiritual practice?

Join Carole Crumley as she illuminates the introductory core prayer practices found in Tilden Edwards’ Living in the Presence. Weekly material will focus on nurturing presence through body, breath & mind. Additional audio guided meditations from Tilden Edwards, Marlene Maier, and the late Gerald May. This offering is a part of our Online School of Contemplative Prayer Series. 

Dates: This six-week course runs September 18 to October 23, 2016.
Cost: $75. (Group discounts available!)

Register now!

Do you yearn to explore a way of leading that is more aligned with your heart?

Leadership is challenging, no matter the workplace. Despite our best of intentions, we all too often find ourselves acting in ways that feel out-of-step with our deepest longings. With hearts wide open, we can see how to lead in a more contemplative way.

Join other leaders in this online course as together we reflect on the invitation to contemplative leadership, a countercultural practice grounded in deep listening and compassion. Through content videos and audio, Leah Rampy will help explore compassion and power as dimensions of contemplative leadership and will offer a space for reflection, contemplative practice and sharing with other leaders.

Dates: Access material anytime between October 5 and October 26, 2016. Flexible for your schedule!
Cost: $150. (Group discounts available!)

Register now!

Do you desire support and enrichment for your prayer life?  
Do you wish to develop or deepen a consistent spiritual practice?

Join Patience Robbins as she guides you through the use of lectio divina, walking meditation, the practice of gratitude and intercessory prayers. Whether you feel like a beginner or want to deepen a particular practice; whether you want to explore new ways of praying or are seeking the support of like-spirited others in an online setting – this course offers something for you.

Dates: This six-week online course runs October 30 to December 4, 2016.
Cost: $75. (Group discounts available!)

Register now!
Young Adult Life and Leadership Initiative - YALLI is for young adults (approximately ages 25-40) who seek a deeper spiritual foundation for their lives and work and who welcome the support of a like-minded community. This program is grounded in the Christian contemplative tradition yet it draws on the wisdom of many religious traditions to offer support for everyday living. Deadline to apply is August 12! Click here to read more or to apply.

Soul of Leadership Program - The Soul of Leadership recognizes that leaders today face particularly difficult challenges. The commitment to inspire others while also increasing productivity and balancing the needs of the organization can leave leaders feeling depleted. Long hours and countless demands often result in a deep need for renewal. Click here to read more.

Nurturing the Call: Spiritual Guidance Program - This program offers both academic resources and experiential support for the ministry of spiritual direction or holy listening. At the heart of this program is the radical conviction that spiritual companionship is a form of prayer and that contemplative listening comes from being grounded in ones relationship with God. Click here to read more.

Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program - This program is designed to equip, encourage and support those called to lead spiritual groups and retreats. Its focus is on nurturing deeper communion with God, contemplative awareness of Gods presence, and an openness to letting God guide. Click here to read more.

Going Deeper: Clergy Spiritual Life and Leadership Program - Although our other Shalem programs connect with certain dimensions of congregational spiritual leadership and many clergy participate in them, none give the context of the local church as the explicit and shared focus as this program does. Going Deeper is for clergy of all denominations and geographic locations who serve on the staffs of local churches or whose ministry involves the local church. Click here to read more.

Group Spiritual Direction Workshop

Whether you are new to group spiritual direction, wish to explore it further, or are seeking support and guidance for forming a group, please consider joining us for this workshop.

Dates: Sunday, Sept 18 to Weds, Sept 21, 2016
Location: The Bellfry, Lexington, VA

Register - only 2 spots left!

Shalem Society Gathering 2016
Keeping Radiant Love at the Center

What can our contemplative consciousness contribute to our understanding of leadership and our response to the growing social conflicts of our time? Join other Shalem graduates at our yearly Gathering.

Dates: October 9-13, 2016
Location: Bon Secours Spiritual Center

Register - only 2 spots left!

Contemplative Voices Award honoring Constance FitzGerald


Constance FitzGerald, OCD, is a contemplative theologian and a member of the Carmelite Community in Baltimore where she has served as prioress, formation director, archivist/historian and treasurer. She was a founder of the Association of Contemplative Sisters in the US and a founding member of the Carmelite Forum, a group of scholars dedicated to opening contemplative prayer and life to people through the contemporary interpretation of the Carmelite classics.

Connie has devoted her intellectual life to the explication and interpretation of the writings of the great Carmelite mystics, with a special predilection for Saint John of the Cross.

This is a special fundraising event to celebrate contemporary contemplative voices and to support the work of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation.

Light refreshments will be served and guests will receive a complimentary copy of Sister Constance’s “Impasse and Dark Night.”

Date: Sunday, November 6, 2016, 4-6 PM
Location: Founders’ Hall, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rockville, MD
Cost: $60 suggested donation.

Sign up here

Gerald May Seminar with Mirabai Starr
The Passion of the Mystics: A Contemplative Journey

Mirabai Starr, MA, is an author, translator of the mystics, and a leading voice in the emerging inter-spiritual movement. She speaks and teaches nationally and internationally on the teachings of the mystics, contemplative practice and the transformational power of grief and loss.

She is known for building bridges not only between religious traditions but also between contemplative life and compassionate service, between cultivating an inner relationship with the Beloved and expressing that intimacy in community, between the transformational power of loss and longing for the sacred. Join us for this engaging weekend conference!

Friday, April 28, 2017, 7-9 PM
The Friday night lecture will draw on the works of the great Christian mystics and more.

Saturday, April 29, 2017, 10 AM-4 PM
In the Saturday workshop, we will read short passages from the works of the great Christian mystics and respond to writing prompts to access our unique voice and deepen our personal journey. Inter-spiritual chanting and simple body practices will support and balance our contemplative readings and writing exercises.

Register here

Margaret's Travels

Follow our Executive Director, Margaret Benefiel, as she hits various spots around the world!

Margaret's upcoming schedule:

Sept 16, 3-5:30, Pilgrim Place, Claremont, CA. (tea and punch and cookies served at beginning)

Sept 17, 9-11:30, Mission Hills United Church of Christ, San Diego, reception following

Sept 18, 2-5, Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley, reception following

Friends of Shalem

Contemplative Outreach MD/DC offers:
A one day Centering Prayer Introductory Workshop
Workshop will be followed by continuing sessions.
September 24, 2016.

Visit for more info.

Center for Spiritual Deepening, Alexandria VA, offers:
Mature Spirituality
September 28, 2016
Co-Creating the Cosmos
Every Thursday in October
The Spirituality of Parenting
October 26, 2016

Visit for more info.


Pilgrimage to the Pacific NW
On this pilgrimage, we will walk the Earth, exploring and honoring mountain, river & sea. Sept 24-Oct 1 2016.
Learn more
Pilgrimage to Paris 
A contemplative pilgrimage to Paris allows us to slow down and savor the presence of the Holy. March 21-30 2017.
Learn more
Pilgrimage to Assisi
Come with us to the awe-inspiring town of Assisi where pilgrims have sought wisdom for centuries. May 10-20, 2017
Learn more
Share Shalem’s vital ministry of spiritual deepening—become a Shalem donor today!

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