The Spiritual Guidance Training Institute, a PRIME affiliate of the Graduate Theological Foundation, recently met with its first cohort in Chicago, IL. SGTI is the only institute of its kind to provide training and certification in both interfaith and interspiritual direction (guidance). This residential institute was the first of two to be held during the 18-month requisite training. Cohort members hailed from California, New York, Michigan and Chicago and came from varied backgrounds and spiritual traditions.
Central to the residential training was an experience of interfaith immersion. The students, along with lead teachers Dr. Jeanette Banashak and Dr. Janice Lundy (both graduates of the Graduate Theological Foundation), spent time with members of the Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu faith traditions. On their first evening, the cohort visited Mishkan Chicago, described as “inspired, down-to-earth Judaism”, enjoying a Shabbat service, meal, and conversation with Rabbi Lauren Henderson. The Ginza Festival was another destination. The group indulged in Japanese cultural expressions including traditional singing, dancing, and drumming, afterwards benefitting from silence and meditation in the Midwest Buddhist temple. Jodo Senshu (or Shin) Buddhism is practiced there. The final interfaith experience was at ISKON Chicago, the home of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. They met with a community leader for a question and answer session, participated in kirtan, and appreciated a lecture and slide show by Jean Griesser, the director of the new film, “Hare Krishna: The Mantra, the Movement, and the Man Who Started It All.” The evening ended with a feast of traditional Indian foods. The students remarked on the warm welcome and hospitality offered by each of the three faith communities.
The immersion experience supports one of the primary tenets of SGTI education: exploring the interconnectedness of our faith traditions to deepen our understanding of and build bridges with seekers of all spiritual persuasions. Classroom work was held at the Cenacle Sisters Retreat Center in Lincoln Park, the ideal setting to foster contemplative practice, another of the core principles of the program. Students explored the nature of spiritual guidance and the forms it can take, the Perennial Tradition, interspirituality, and began the process of utilizing “Pure Presence”® in dyads. One of the main texts used in the training was Show Me Your Way: The Complete Guide to Exploring Interfaith Spiritual Direction by Rabbi Howard A. Addison, Gershom Scholem Professor of Jewish Spirituality at The Graduate Theological Foundation. The excitement was high as the students began to understand the dynamic behind spiritual direction and its power to transform the lives of seekers who desire non-judgmental support and encouragement for their spiritual journeys.
At the end of the institute, one of the students wrote, “The days in Chicago were an honoring of the obvious but not often acknowledged reality of the divine that surrounds and fills our world every day. They were an opening to that reality for me—an invitation, but not a demand, to enjoy and even luxuriate in it.”
The students’ education will continue in an online format and through spiritual guidance in their own cities from September through April 2018 when a second residential institute will be held. They’ll go deeper into their inner lives and learn with and from the voices in texts, guest speakers, peer groups, and directees. Their instruction includes written, audio, video and “real time” interaction with one another. Each participant also receives private mentoring from a lead teacher to ensure success in the program.
To learn more about the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute and its PRIME partnership with The Graduate Theological Foundation, visit their website: