Center for Lifelong Learning Spirituality Program Celebrates 25 Years!

Center for Lifelong Learning Spirituality Program Celebrates 25 Years!

In 2020 the Center for Lifelong Learning’s Spirituality Program will celebrate its 25th Anniversary! The inspiration behind the program came from Ben Campbell Johnson who, while on retreat at Christ in the Desert Monastery, felt he received a vision from God to start this program.

Debra Weir, Associate Director for Spirituality at the Center for Lifelong Learning, currently leads the program. She brings expertise in spiritual direction, coordinates the Certificate in Spiritual Formation, and in 2015 she launched the Certificate in Spiritual Direction program at the Center. We asked Debra to share a little on how the spirituality program came to be at Columbia seminary.


CTS: What attracts people to the program?

Debra Weir: Spirituality is a word that’s used in many ways in the current culture. Many people seek a Christian context as a framework for their spiritual growth and learning. Folks often come to take a single class with us because a topic is of interest or they are eager to learn with one of our outstanding teachers. What motivates people to return is the welcome and sense of connection. A frequent participant comment is, “I’m here because of the community and friendships formed through the program.”

The program’s continuity and varied programming also attract many people. We regularly introduce new courses like the Enneagram courses offered 2019, and Between Nothing and Everything: The Gospel of Love according to Julian of Norwich in spring 2020. We also offer online courses. These courses are accessible to a wide audience, in any time zone. We continue to develop pilgrimage opportunities to include domestic and international locations such as Northern New Mexico and Iona.

The addition of the Certificate in Spiritual Direction in 2015 was in response to the many inquiries and requests for this specialized training. Several graduates of the Certificate in Spiritual Formation have completed this program.


CTS: What do participants typically say about the program after completing it?

“The program gave me a needed structure, a project with which to regain my vocational bearings.”

-Marshall Jenkins

“I continue finding to this day (and most likely for the rest of my life) experiences, friendships, and paths to God for which I am grateful—all of which were a result of my time working in the Spiritual Formation program.”

-Daphne C. Reiley

“As I come near to completing the Certificate in Spiritual Formation, I recognize just how much my accumulated study and relationships have shaped my spiritual life – which is the point! – but also how readily I am able to offer these accumulated experiences to others. Earlier in the process, I felt some pressure to “teach” what I was learning to others. Now, I feel comfortable sharing insights as opportunities arise so that extending the reach of the program is less formal and more organic.”

– Carol Pye

DW: These comments provide a taste of participants’ experience in the program and reflect the gifts they bring to their faith communities.


CTS: How can people determine which CTS spirituality certificate program is the right fit, or right for them?

DW: I encourage inquirers to reflect on the following statements and see which more accurately reflects what they are seeking:

I am seeking to grow in my spiritual life and learn more about the field of spiritual formation. I would like to share what I learn with my faith community.

I meet regularly with a spiritual director and I am discerning my own gifts and calling to the ministry of spiritual direction.

If the first resonates, the CSF may be the first step. The Spiritual Formation Certificate program is a framework for spiritual growth and spiritual journey. There is a practical component that has to do with developing one’s spiritual leadership as an outgrowth to the coursework. The courses are open to all interested persons, whether they are seeking the certificate or not. The community is a revolving door. When you’re ready, the community will be here to receive you.

The Certificate in Spiritual Direction, on the other hand, has a more specific focus and curriculum. It is designed to cultivate the skills and gifts of those who discern an invitation to companion others in the setting of one-with-one spiritual direction. Admittance to this program is by an application. We are now accepting applications to the 2020 cohort which begins fall 2020.

As part of an individual’s discernment, we encourage conversation with us and enrollment in one or more courses in the CSF to get a sense of the possibilities and to become more familiar with the program and leaders.

Applications are now open for the next Certificate in Spiritual Direction cohort. Visit Certificate in Spiritual Direction to learn more.


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