Wisdom Infused Distance Spiritual Direction Intensive Training Program

“I would like to attend your Spiritual Direction Training program, Marcella, but your program is located in Bethlehem, PA and I live in Georgia. I urge you to kindly consider creating a distance option for your program, that would allow others like myself who want a spiritual direction training program that incorporates the teachings and practices of a Wisdom Way of Knowing, to attend your program.”

MoravianSeminaryThis wasn’t exactly what I was expecting as I finished up my last days of the Claymont Movement Wisdom School in March of 2016. This request came from one of my Wisdom colleagues who had been on the Movements floor with me all week and had overheard me talking about incorporating some Wisdom practices into the Moravian Theological Seminary Spiritual Direction program that I co-direct with my colleague Barb Martell. The request landed deep and wide within; a call bell of stillness and alertness ensued. I was intrigued. I responded to her request “Wow, I have not thought of creating a Wisdom infused distance option for our Spiritual Direction training program. Let me take this into my prayer, discuss it with my co director and the seminary, and get back to you!”

This ‘out of the blue request’ landed in my prayer with great energy. I shared it with my co-director, who responded with openness and steadied co-listening. I put feelers out within the Wisdom network to see if others had interest in a Wisdom infused Spiritual Direction program. Within two months three additional people responded with a strong YES! Building on our existing Spiritual Direction program, already vetted and approved, we proposed adding a distance component in line with our seminary’s strategic goals, with a Wisdom school rhythm retreat each semester. A step of faith the whole way, doors kept opening. Timing for the Seminary appeared right as the school was currently increasing distance learning technologies, so were well equipped with electronic platforms, large screens and classroom cameras. Faculty approval of this one-year distance Wisdom infused Intensive Spiritual Direction offering was unanimous. This program, designed for those already trained in companioning others (counselors, those contemplatively trained, etc), includes 10 graduate credits in courses such as the Art & Practice of Spiritual Direction, Discernment, and Group Spiritual Direction, each semester offering one weekly distance class and one class anchored in an ‘in person’ Wisdom school retreat in Bethlehem, PA. Our first cohort of distance Wisdom infused Spiritual Direction training at Moravian was offered in 2017-2018.

Spiritual Direction Cohort
(Spiritual Direction cohort: Front row: Marcella Kraybill-Greggo (Program co-director) 4th in from the left, Barb Martell (Program co-director) 5th in; Wisdom participants: Lisa Persons 6th in, Heather Ruse 7th in & Jeanine Siler Jones in back row middle).

The following three reflections are shared by members of the Wisdom community who participated in Moravian’s first distance Wisdom infused Spiritual Direction program.

Heather Ruce: I was at the Claymont Movement Wisdom School when Marcella was asked to consider beginning the one-year intensive program that would incorporate teachings from the Wisdom tradition. I had been a spiritual director for several years and had the desire to pursue a program but had not found one that resonated with what I was looking for. Because of my background in the Wisdom work with Cynthia since 2012, as well as training as a therapist and in a body-based mindfulness approach to trauma, I wanted a program that was holistic and would be based on three-centered knowing. When Marcella told me about the idea of the one- year intensive that would have a focus in Wisdom, I wondered if this may be the program and the time to pursue it.

As I listened from within, I decided to say yes and take this next step to further confirm my vocational call as a spiritual companion and to continue the integration of Wisdom as the basis of this call. Our first day of class began with a pause of silence, Logion 2 from the Gospel of Thomas, and a body prayer. I immediately felt at home. We gathered over Zoom, joining one another from England, Canada, and various time zones in the US. With Teilhard’s notion of the ‘noosphere’ in mind, our distance cohort opened ourselves to the opportunity to learn how to lean into our connection that exists beyond physical space and time. It was an adjustment at first, but we settled in quickly and in an unexpected way. Gathering together from our own homes brought with it a special sense of intimacy and safety.

A three-centered thread ran through the whole program including our two ‘intensive’ retreats which followed the Wisdom School rhythm. It was encouraging to see and experience the Benedictine rhythm applied in another context. This form provided a depth of connection to the tradition and practice of spiritual direction. It also allowed for our cohort to connect to one another with more of Ourselves.

Jeanine Siler Jones: For years I have considered further training in Spiritual Direction. I have a full-time therapy practice in Asheville, NC and have integrated my 9 years of Wisdom work with Cynthia into my professional life on my own. I was drawn to this program at Moravian Seminary because it would be a community where I could give attention to the ‘braiding’ of my call as a Therapist, a Wisdom seeker and a Spiritual Director. My “yes” felt strong and clear from the beginning.

Completely unknown to me at the time of this clear yes was the deep and personal need I would bring to this Spiritual Direction learning community. Just one week into our first summer course, in early June of 2017, my brother died suddenly. My heart was broken open. With this cohort, I received profound care which became integral to my spiritual direction learning. The fact that this was a distance learning cohort was surprisingly no deterrent to our attentive and caring presence with one another as a learning community.

When we gathered in person for our two on site retreats, the Wisdom School container was familiar and grounding. My body knew the way. The rhythm of prayer and work with two contemplative sits each day, chanting, movement and embracing the Great Silence at the end of the day all combined to hold and deepen the learning for me. Whatever we were learning with our minds, we practiced and experienced with our bodies and hearts. So, the Centering Prayer informed the silence we practiced in both individual and group spiritual direction. The chanting opened channels of vibration and connection with God and one another and cultivated deep listening. The body prayers, ‘finding our feet’ and noticing gesture allowed the knowing to amplify, move and ground.

This wisdom infused Spiritual Direction program gave me a body of material, seasoned teachers and supervisors, and a wholehearted cohort to mentor me into a profound year of integration.

Lisa Persons: After practicing as a spiritual director for several years and using Wisdom work in an intuitive way, I was seeking the right certificate program to deepen and broaden my knowledge and practice base. Moravian Seminary’s program offered a wonderful way to integrate the golden thread of Wisdom I had been following since 1999 when I attended a Singing the Psalms Benedictine Wisdom School with Cynthia Bourgeault.

Moravian Seminary’s program helped me more deeply weave the Wisdom thread into my work with individuals and groups. Throughout the coursework and practicum we were invited to integrate the wisdom of the body and to listen to how what we read and heard “landed in our bodies”. This was so helpful in deepening my awareness of the moving center of knowing. Practicing in community truly helped me listen with “more of me”, deeply grounding the practice of spiritual direction and life in the body.

Another wisdom dimension that was developed in this program was the way in which Group Spiritual Direction is a container for “midwifing” Third Force. As we practiced speaking, listening with all three centers of knowing and reflecting back to one another threads and images that we noticed, we were all developing an “alert flexible presence that can hold the tension of opposites.” Law of Three images emerged organically in my Group Spiritual Direction group without me every teaching about the Law of Three. For example, in one session as we reflected on the effort and friction that go into discernment and navigation of relationships, the image of the friction of churning milk yielding sweet butter bubbled up. Later I reflected on this image as a Law of Three dynamic: milk, human energy, a churn; butter was the sweet new arising.

This program offered a group process of sharing and listening that was a dance, a divine exchange, an embodied practice of trust in the slow work of God, Who can and will use all on behalf of wisdom in beautiful and unexpected ways.

The next Intensive Spiritual Direction Training begins June 2019. If you are interested in learning more about this Wisdom infused Spiritual Direction Training Program please contact Marcella at Kraybill-Greggom@moravian.edu and see the following link: https://www.moravianseminary.edu/academics/certificate/spiritual-direction-intensive

Wisdom Infused
View of the Spiritual Direction cohort on ZOOM at the end of a class, as a ‘blessing of the hands’ was offered to one another.


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