By The Reverend Gary Dreier
Director of the Spiritual Director Certificate Program.
Spiritual direction is the practice of listening with another for the movement of the Spirit in their life. A centuries-old Christian tradition, it has largely stayed rooted in the Roman, Eastern, and Anglican community. Somehow, it fell off the Protestant “radar” for far too long.
Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary has a proud history of encouraging and supporting spiritual formation for its students and the role of spiritual direction in that formation. Already in 1988, the faculty wrote a white paper in support of spiritual formation and spirituality. Over the last few decades our candidacy committees have seen the value in spiritual direction and are increasingly suggesting that seminary students participate in direction. This trend matches a national growing desire within Protestantism to embrace this ancient tradition again.
In 2017, LTSS expanded its work in spiritual formation to include an 18-month certificate program for those who are not currently pursuing a degree in theological education. A trinitarian-based program, the Certificate Program in Spiritual Direction brings around 40 participants to the LTSS campus annually for each of its four intensives. Every January we welcome a new cohort of around 16 participants. Our fifth cohort will begin in January 2021.
While most participants are discerning their own call to be spiritual directors, many come simply for their own edification and immersion in Christian spirituality. Graduates report that the experience has been life-changing and has deepened them both in their faith and in their discipleship.
Participants are racially diverse, male and female, clergy and non-clergy. Over the years there have been 9 denominations represented: African Methodist Episcopal, Christian Missionary Alliance, ELCA Lutheran, Episcopalian, Orthodox, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, and two attending non-denominational churches. Of the Lutherans there was one Benedictine Oblate and one in the Order of Lutheran Franciscans.
Over the years there have been 16 states represented: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
Pastor Gary Dreier who began the program is retiring in June 2020. The Rev. Dr. Melanie Dobson, Assistant Professor of Methodist Studies, will become the director of the program later this summer.
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