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Feathering-In the Divine Presence

by Winston Charles

                   When I look up at the heavens,
                   at the work of Love’s creation,
                   at the infinite variety of your Plan…

                                                             Nan Merrill, Psalms for Praying

How many of us, after faithfully practicing our morning devotion, turn toward the day’s schedule and leave behind the deeper consciousness that has been given in those sacred moments? How can we feather into the mad midst of our day the prayerful presence out of which flows a contemplative stance toward the joys and challenges that confront us? How can we feather this contemplative ground into the fullness of our days so that we can practice compassionate and courageous presence no matter what?  

The number of contemplative practices of feathering-in increases with every heart that discovers new ways of opening to God’s gracious presence in the split second of a moment when emotions fire a response. This cornucopia of contemplative practices “on the go” includes breathing deeply, leaning back, recalling a sacred word, pausing for spaciousness, stopping to sense one’s feet grounded on the earth, walking at half-speed while sensing the opening heart, and so many more. Contemplative creativity holds unlimited resources for new spiritual practices that in a flash return us to the vital spiritual source from which we desire to live. One of these feathering practices surrounds us wherever we are: contemplative connection with creation.  

The luscious Carolina heirloom tomatoes that come in abundance in August are enough alone to connect me deeply to creation, but my gardening includes more: landscape design; hardscape creation of flower beds, paths, steps; flowers that grace each season; okra, collards, garlic, cucumbers, squash, peppers that take the express route from garden to kitchen to table. At the heart of all is the creation of beauty. And, at the heart of that beauty, is the oneness with God’s creation.  

Read full article in Annual Report


Now through early 2017 - Holy Interruptions - online
Dec 10 - Taste & See Event, Paris Pilgrimage
Jan 7 & Jan 12 - Taste & See Events, Assisi Pilgrimage
Jan 15 - Nurturing the Call: Spiritual Guidance Program deadline
Jan 16-March 31, 2017 - MLK Jr Day offering: Howard Thurman Retreat Day - online
Jan 22-Feb 26 - Living from the Spiritual Heart - online
Jan 23-26 Soul of Leadership in England

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. Although registrations have closed for the 2017-2018 class, we would be happy to talk with you if you are sensing a call to this program. Please contact Trish Stefanik as soon as possible (301-897-7334 or to see if it still might be possible to include you in this class. 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. The  application deadline is January 15. Click here to read more.

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. There are programs in Boston, England and Tennessee. 
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.

Do you yearn to see, listen & act more deeply from your spiritual heart? 
Do you wish to develop or deepen a consistent daily spiritual practice?

Give yourself the gift of spaciousness in the New Year. Join Tilden Edwards, Shalem's founder and senior fellow, for six weekly sessions. With material designed specifically for this eCourse, Tilden offers video teachings, guided meditations, reflection questions, and midweek check-in emails.

Dates: January 22 to February 26, 2017.
Cost: $75. (Group discounts available!)

Register now!

Would you benefit from taking a day during this Advent season to rejuvenate, recharge, and refocus?
Through audio teaching, poetry, art, music, guided meditation, reflection questions and invitations into silence, Ann Kulp invites you into intentional quiet space to help you learn to notice and embrace unexpected, holy moments that happen each day. Join Shalem for a retreat day —ONLINE.

Dates: This one day retreat can be taken anytime now through Feb. 1, 2017. You may access the retreat immediately upon purchase.

I want a retreat!

Paris is one of the most magnificent cities in the world. Its architecture and landmarks, artistic treasures and centuries of history are a gift. Our schedule will include daily meditations and reflections related to Lent and this pilgrimage journey, visits to sites of historic beauty and artistic treasure, contemplative worship with communities in Paris, the joy of sharing with fellow pilgrims and ample time to explore on your own. Throughout this Lenten experience, our intent is to be a prayerful presence in the city, embracing the life of Paris with a pilgrim heart.
Learn more

Come with us to the awe-inspiring town of Assisi where pilgrims have sought wisdom for centuries.  Experience the culturally-rich birthplace of the thirteenth-century saints Francis and Clare, and walk in their footsteps through the beautiful landscapes of Umbria and Tuscany. As you journey to the sacred sites where the saints sought clarity and spiritual sustenance, you may find your connection to the divine grow stronger and see your own life with renewed vision.  Open yourself to the possibilities of transformation as you draw on the natural beauty of this land and the spiritual imprint left by the saints.

Learn more

Pilgrimage Taste and See Events

Free events to learn about Paris and Assisi Pilgrimages

If you are wondering whether one of our pilgrimages might be right for you, please join us for one of our free Taste and See events where you will have an opportunity to meet with the pilgrimage leaders, learn more about each journey; and ask questions about the trip and anything else that might help in your discernment process about joining the pilgrimage.

Paris: Sat, December 10, 10 AM to 12:30 (click here for the Facebook event)
Assisi: Sat, January 7, 2017, 10 AM to Noon

Assisi: Thurs, January 12, 2017, 10 AM to Noon

Location for all events:
Cascade Cafe, National Gallery of Art
Washington, DC

Although there is no charge for these events, please contact to let us know you’ll be joining us and for which day.

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:

Dec 9-10 - Soul of Leadership Workshop, Columbus Ohio (all are welcome)
Jan 23-26 - Soul of Leadership opening residency, Birmingham, UK (all are welcome)
Jan 30 - Shalem regional gathering, Charlottesville, VA (all are welcome)
Feb 19 - Shalem regional gathering, Seattle (all are welcome)
Mar 27-30 - Soul of Leadership opening residency, St. Mary's Retreat Center, Sewanee, TN (all are welcome)

Glimpses of Contemplative Voices Award honoring Constance FitzGerald

On November 6, we honored Constance FitzGerald, OCD, with our Contemplative Voices Award. We are grateful for all who joined us in this celebration. Click here for more pictures.

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We don’t want to lose you! Please let us know when you change your mailing address or your email. Send a note to

Friends of Shalem

Friends of St. Benedict
Leadership in Community and the Rule of St. Benedict
March 14-17, 2017
Click here for more information.

Center for Spiritual Deepening, Alexandria VA
Facing the Empty Chair: Grief & the Holidays                           
December 7, 7:30 pm
Healing at the Holidays: A Special Celtic Service
December 11, 5:30pm
Click here for more information.


Giving a gift to Shalem has never been easier! Simply select Shalem as the charitable organization of your choice before you begin shopping.
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The Annual Report 
View and read our latest Annual Report (2015-2016), featuring all new articles by Shalem staff and more!
Read now
Howard Thurman Retreat Day - online
Lerita Coleman Brown invites you into intentional quiet space to reflect in this new online offering.
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Share Shalem’s vital ministry of spiritual deepening—become a Shalem donor today!

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