The C. John Weborg Center for Spiritual Direction is accepting applications for its next cohort, which will hold its summer intensive in Chicago from July 26 to August 1.
The classes are scheduled to be held in person at North Park Theological Seminary, but that could change depending on Covid-19 guidelines, says Rob Peterson, executive director of the center.
The 2020 cohort was held virtually.
The program combines theory and practice as participants receive one-on-one spiritual direction sessions, meet with supervisors, and participate in peer-supervision group sessions.
“It’s very transformative for the students,” says Peterson. “It’s more than learning skill sets. It’s part of a person’s journey.”
Most people who come to the center have had experience with receiving spiritual direction says Peterson. When they participate in spiritual direction they come alive and say, “I think this is what God wants me to do. I want to accompany people on their spiritual journey, whether they’re a lead pastor or a worship leader.”
Peterson says, “Accompaniment is a better word than direction. You don’t actually tell someone how to tell someone how to live their life.”
He adds, “It is two people listening to one another in Holy Spirit-guided conversation, but in particular, a director listening to another follower of Christ and helping them notice the movement of God in their life.”
“Many years ago, I was challenged in my pursuit of knowing what my purpose was and how it aligned with my faith,” says Gillie D. Abdiraxman-Issa, a recent graduate. “The courses, instructors and journaling practices for the first year and a half transformed me in ways of discovery and understanding. I am now able to understand the divine and how he is always at work in our lives. It’s so funny I hated silence and now, I relish in the quiet and the stillness of God’s voice. I am no longer afraid of the deep and the mysteries of the Lord.”
Debbie Blue, who was in the school’s first cohort from 2005 to 2007, says the program has had a lasting impact on her. “I deeply appreciated how thoroughly we were equipped to be holy listeners. But even more valuable for me personally was how the process led me into learning about myself and my own brokenness. It became a journey of discovery, self-awareness, and ultimately demasking, both painful and good.”
She has since been involved with the center, having provided direction, facilitated listening groups, teaching, and supervising trainees.
Peterson started as executive director in June 2020 after serving 30 years in local pastorates, most recently as senior pastor at Thornapple Covenant Church, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He left that position, sensing he was supposed to do something different to conclude his years of professional ministry.
That is when he was encouraged by a friend to apply to serve as the center’s executive director.
“I love coming alongside younger pastors and to be a mentor,” he says. “I also had been in direction for 20 years, and that has been a vital part of my growth. I’ve seen people in my churches who I’ve recommended spiritual direction to just come alive in God.”
Last year’s cohort was held online for the first time. Peterson said the classes done via Zoom worked, but he is glad that in-person sessions are planned for 2021. “Of course, we also have a plan B,” he says.
For more information on the center and how to apply, visit the Center for Spiritual Direction website. Financial aid and some scholarships, funded through the Lilly Endowment, are available. Applications should be submitted by March 31.