Certificate in Spiritual Direction

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Our primary motive for becoming a spiritual companion should be the love of others and desire to help them grow into the full measure of holiness and wholeness that is their eternal destiny. David G. Benner, Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship

The Certificate in Spiritual Direction (CSD) program is designed for individuals who discern a call to the ministry of Spiritual Direction

Grounded in the tradition of Christian Spirituality, the curriculum includes four one-week long residencies on campus, online components, individual reading and written reflections, and a supervised practicum in the art of spiritual direction. Organized on the cohort model, the certificate is intended to be completed in two and half years.

Areas of focus that weave through the formation program include contemplation and deep listening, awareness of self and the holy spirit, discernment, somatic integration, spiritual practices and self-reflection, supervision and ethics.

Certificate in Spiritual Direction Leadership

A team of leaders provide content and feedback in plenary sessions, model spiritual practices and spiritual direction, facilitate afternoon learning labs, mentor participants, and share unique gifts throughout the program. The leadership team includes:

The Rev. Dr. Jim Dant currently serves as senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Greenville, SC.  A well-respected conference and retreat leader, Jim has also taught courses at Mercer University and McAfee School of Theology and for Certificate in Spiritual Formation program at Columbia Theological Seminary,.  He is the author of several books, most recently, This I Know: A Simple Biblical Defense for Lgbtq Christians. Jim is a graduate of Georgia State University, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Columbia Theological Seminary. He received certifications in Spiritual Direction and Ignatian Retreat direction from the Mercy Center in Burlingame, CA. Jim enjoys running triathlons, studying Hebrew, and classical guitar.

The Rev. Liz Forney serves as a Chaplain for the Hospice of the Piedmont focuses on pastoral care and Stephen Ministries at First Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, VA. Liz serves as an instructor and practice group facilitator in the Certificate in Spiritual Direction program at Columbia Seminary. She is the co-author with Norvene Vest of, What is your Practice: Lifelong Growth in the Spirit. Liz earned her BA from Franklin and Marshall and her M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary. She also received a Certificate in Individual Spiritual Guidance from the Shalem Institute, Washington, DC, and a Certificate in Spiritual Formation from Columbia Theological Seminary.

The Rev. Dr. Julie Johnson founded HolyCreek Ministries where she serves as Spiritual Director, Congregational Consultant and Retreat Leader. She also serves as spiritual director at Samaritan Counseling Center at First Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, GA. Julie received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Religion at Purdue University, her Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, her Doctor of Ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary and her Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction from San Francisco Theological Seminary.  Julie teaches the Discernment in Spiritual Direction and is a practice group supervisor in the CSD. Julie’s hobbies include friendship, travel, photography, poetry and outdoor activities. http://holycreek.org/

The Rev. Dr. Deedra Rich is a teacher, spiritual director, retreat leader and supervisor for spiritual directors. She has worked with the Spirituality Program at Columbia for over 10 years serving in a variety of capacities – facilitator, instructor, program coordinator, former director, and practicum adviser. She serves as an instructor and spiritual direction supervisor in the Certificate in Spiritual Direction. Deedra received her M.Div. from Candler School of Theology and her Doctor of Ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary and is ordained through the Baptist tradition. She received training in Spiritual Direction through Sursum Corda. Deedra has served both Baptist (CBF) and Presbyterian (PC USA) churches. Her current interest and area of study is integrating Benedictine Spirituality, specifically their spiritual practices and intentional rhythm of life, into one’s everyday life and spiritual journey. She also enjoys practicing centering prayer, yoga, gardening, and hiking. She lives in Atlanta with her two young daughters and her husband, Matt.

The Rev. Mary Anona Stoops has an active practice of spiritual direction and supervision of spiritual directors and is delighted to serve as part of the leadership team for the Certificate in Spiritual Direction program and the Certificate in Older Adult Ministries Programs at Columbia Theological Seminary. Mary Anona is ordained in the PC(USA) and has served congregations in Australia, New York, Tennessee and Nebraska and currently serves as Pastor for Adult Spiritual Formation at North Decatur Presbyterian Church in Decatur, GA.  Mary Anona earned her M.Div. from Princeton Theological  Seminary and formation in Spiritual Direction through the Benedictine Sisters of Mt. St. Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas. Mary Anona loves exploring and adventure and is convinced that the greatest adventure of all is the journey into the inner landscape of the soul.

The Rev. Jane E. Vennard is John Wesley Iliff Senior Adjunct Instructor in Spirituality at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado. She earned her B.A. from Wellesley College, her M.A. from Stanford University and her M.Div. from San Francisco Theological Seminary. She was called to a special ministry of teaching and spiritual direction and ordained in the United Church of Christ. Jane is a spiritual director in private practice and a long-time member of Spiritual Directors International.

In addition to Iliff, Jane has taught at the Pacific School of Religion, Vancouver School of Theology, Columbia Seminary, and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.  She is also a regular faculty presenter with The Upper Room Academy for Spiritual Formation and teaches classes in a variety of ecumenical settings, leads retreats internationally, and is the author of numerous articles and eight books: Praying for Friends and Enemies (1995), Praying with Body and Soul (l998), Be Still: Designing and Leading Contemplative Retreats (2000), Embracing the World: Praying for Justice and Peace (2003), winner of the Colorado Book Award,  A Praying Congregation: The Art of Teaching Spiritual Practice (2005), The Way of Prayer (2007), Fully Awake and Truly Alive: Spiritual Practices to Nurture Your Soul (2013), and Teaching – The Spiritual Art: The Joy of Opening Minds and Hearts (2015). Jane lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband Jim Laurie, a retired Presbyterian minister.

Debra Weir, MA, DASD is the Associate Director for Spirituality and Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary. She is a spiritual director, supervisor for spiritual directors, and retreat leader. Informing her sensibilities are her avocations in health and expressive arts and her deep roots in Asia where she and her family lived for ten years. She received degrees from the University of Kansas and the University of California at Berkeley. She holds the Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction from San Francisco Theological Seminary, has completed Together in the Mystery Supervision Training for Spiritual Directors and co-led the training. She is a ruling elder in the PCUSA. Debra enjoys travel and pilgrimage, expansive spaces in the great out-doors, good food, cooking and simple gardening.

Admission Requirements and Application Information

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Applicants to the Certificate in Spiritual Direction (CSD) program should have completed a minimum of one year receiving spiritual direction with a trained spiritual director and agree to continue in spiritual direction during CSD studies.

Applicants should be able: to articulate an understanding of spiritual guidance and discernment of call to the ministry of spiritual direction; narrate their faith journey and current spiritual practices; exhibit maturity and relationship to a faith community. Two letters of reference are required.

Computer and internet access are needed to use the seminary’s online learning platform and complete the distance components of the course work. Participants will not be required to be online at a specific time.  Online segments are self-paced.


Course of Study

2018-2020 CSD Cohort

Discernment in Spiritual Direction

October 20-25, 2019

With: Julie Johnson/ Leadership team


Spiritual Direction, Discerned Action and Social Transformation

March 22-27, 2020
With: Jim Dant/Leadership Team


2020 Cohort

Spiritual Direction in Context

September 27- October 2, 2020
With: Jane Vennard/Leadership Team


Incarnation: Theology, Tradition and Practice of Spiritual Direction

April 25-30, 2021
With: Jim Dant/Leadership Team


Discernment in Spiritual Direction

November 7-12, 2021
With: Julie Johnson/Leadership Team


Spiritual Direction, Discerned Action and Social Transformation

Spring 2022
With: Jim Dant/Leadership Team


Supervised Practice in the Art of Spiritual Direction

Supervision is a spiritual practice as well as an ethical commitment on the part of all spiritual directors. We offer a well-developed supervision process to facilitate formation and learning.

This process is learned during the residencies through practical training in afternoon learning labs facilitated by members of the leadership team. The framework is then utilized at home for monthly meetings with a trained field supervisor. Eighteen supervision sessions are required for completion of the CSD. Fees for individual supervision are the responsibility of the student. Feels generally range from $50-100 per hour-long session. A list of supervisors will be provided.


Certificate of Completion

Upon completion of the requirements of this program a certificate of completion will be awarded.

The certificate will attest to completion of this formation and training program to develop the gifts and sensibilities of spiritual directors and support their callings to this ministry.


Program Fees

The cost of each residency is $1400, which includes several meals and residency-related course components.  Housing is available for an additional fee.  Fees may be adjusted on an annual basis.

Fees for field supervision ($50-100 per hour-long session) are the responsibility of the student.


For more information, please email Debra Weir (mail to: weir.debra@ctsnet.edu), Associate Director, Spirituality and Lifelong Learning, or call her at 404-687-4557.