Living the Questions – Henri Nouwen & Spiritual Companionship
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“Before his death, he told his friends that when he died his spirit would be accessible to those he loved and those who loved him. Therefore, we trust that your own experience of spiritual direction with Henri Nouwen is possible here."
~ Michael Christensen & Rebecca Laird,
Spiritual Direction - Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith
Learn from People who Knew Henri Nouwen
Henri Nouwen was one of the most famous teachers - and practitioners - of spiritual direction in the 20th Century. He was passionate and compassionate, insightful and encouraging - a Catholic priest, professor and author of more than 40 books (8 million copies sold and counting). But in spite of his popularity and fame, he's perhaps best known for his humility and humanity. (He referred to his own spiritual direction as "spiritual friendship" or simply being a "soul friend.") Nouwen taught at Yale and Harvard Divinity Schools. And one of his students, who received spiritual guidance from Nouwen and also took Nouwen's course on spiritual direction, is our co-presenter for this webinar, Michael Christensen.
Michael and his wife Rebecca Laird, who worked with Nouwen as an editor, have gone on to scholarly and literary achievements of their own -- notably, a popular series of books posthumously created from the notes and various writings of Nouwen.
This SDI webinar series, presented by Michael and Rebecca, will focus on the first book of the series - Spiritual Direction - Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith.
Michael and Rebecca are both professors who teach spiritual formation. They are among the best guides in the world when it comes to Nouwen's approach to spiritual companionship. SDI is delighted to have them lead this learning experience.
In the second webinar session, as a special feature, they will also interview Sister Sue Mosteller, a Canadian who became Nouwen's close friend for the last 10 years of his life as well as becoming the literary executor of the Henri Nouwen Legacy after his death.
Who May Benefit from this Series
Our series is designed for spiritual companions and anyone who works in a listening and caring profession - indeed Nouwen's legacy is so rich, any spiritual seeker may find inspiration here.
People from all faiths and spiritual traditions, and those who have none, are welcome to participate.
The webinar will use as a framework Nouwen's 10 questions for living a spiritual life. Those who value contemplation and community will find themselves welcomed - and challenged - to go deeper.
- Who will answer my questions?
- Where do I begin?
- Who am I?
- Where have I been?
- Where am I going?
- What is prayer?
- Who is God for me?
- How do I hear the Word?
- Where do I belong?
- How can I be of service?
Special thanks to the Henri Nouwen Society, whose support has helped make this webinar series a reality. We, at SDI, are grateful for your good will and all your efforts.
What to Expect
For those new to Nouwen, this series will provide an extraordinary introduction. And for those who already count him as a spiritual influence, there will be the chance to get a feeling for who Nouwen was and what motivated him as a spiritual companion. Rebecca and Michael plan to share insights from their other books and scholarly work as well as from their own interactions with a man they say was remarkably warm and welcoming.
Session 1 - Introduction to Henri Nouwen - Creating Sacred Space, Inviting Transformation.
- This session will cover not only who Henri Nouwen was, but how he lived his life. Through listening with his heart, he was always "on call" as a spiritual companion. This approach to life and service, in addition to his writing, made his wisdom and presence accessible to many, many people.
Session 2 - Look Within to the Heart, With Special Guest Sister Sue Mosteller.
- Key Questions: Who will answer my questions? Where do I begin? Who am I? Where have I been and where am I going? We begin our journey through Nouwen's 10 questions here. Spiritual companionship must not only support others as they "look within," they must honor the role of contemplation in their own lives. As a special feature, Rebecca and Michael will interview Nouwen's close friend Sister Sue Mosteller in this session.
Session 3- Look to God in the Book.
- Key Questions: What is prayer? Who is God for me? How do I hear the Word? Here we will look at spiritual writing and the practice of lectio divina. This practice goes beyond merely looking for instruction and uses prayer and meditation to access sacred texts, so that we may embrace them in a personal and intimate way. Here, in reference to prayer, "monologue moves to dialogue," a conversation with God, or however we name the ground of all being.
Session 4 - Look to Others in Community.
- Key Questions: Where do I belong? How can I be of service? Spiritual companions create a paradigm for community by offering a safe place to "bare our souls." As Rebecca and Michael write, "Henri created community wherever he went, and within those communities he offered spiritual direction, sometimes formally, but mostly in informal conversations and friendships." This session will explore the balance between the solitude that enhances contemplation and the service and compassion that allow us to extend our deepest connections outwards to those with which we share our lives - and this planet.
Dr. Rebecca Laird is a full professor, teaching Christian formation and pastoral ministry courses at Pt. Loma Nazarene University in California. An ordained minister, she has served churches in New Jersey and California and led more than 40 spiritual retreats. She has written or co-written seven books including four books on the writings of Henri Nouwen: Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Direction, Discernment and The Heart of Henri Nouwen. She has traveled the world working on relief and development projects from Belarus to Uganda.She and Michael have two adult daughters, Rachel and Megan.
Michael Christensen studied with Henri Nouwen at Yale Divinity School and was a founding board member of the Henri Nouwen Society in Canada. He co-authored four Henri Nouwen books with Rebecca. He was first ordained in the Church of the Nazarene and became the founding pastor and executive director of Golden Gate Community, Inc. in San Francisco in the 1980s. In the 1990s, he became a United Methodist minister (pastoring churches in San Francisco and Berkeley); and a professor of practical theology at Drew University. Teaching at the intersection of theology, spirituality and social justice, he focuses on social innovation and spiritual transformation. He loves to teach, preach, travel, coach pastors and train leaders in team building, organizing, and asset-based community development. Currently, he provides leadership to WorldHope Corps, which drills village wells, provides educational scholarships, sponsors community health initiatives and conducts leadership training in Malawi, Uganda and elsewhere.
Sister Sue Mosteller (special guest, 2nd Session) - Sister Sue was a colleague and close friend of Father Henri Nouwen when he lived at L'Arche Daybreak (1986 - 1996) in Canada. (L'Arche Daybreak is part of an international network of faith-based communities, founded by Jean Vanier, for those with developmental difficulties.) Nouwen credited Sister Sue with being instrumental in fostering a maturity in his spirituality. As he states in his book The Return of the Prodigal Son, she "opened up the third phase of my spiritual journey. […] Her words struck me like a thunderbolt." When Nouwen died in 1996, he entrusted Sister Sue with his estate, making her the literary executor of his works. She went on to oversee the founding of the Henri J.M. Nouwen Archives and Research Collection at the University of St. Michael's College in Toronto. Mosteller is a Sister of St. Joseph of Toronto. She lived at L'Arche Daybreak for 41 years, eventually becoming its executive director and then International Coordinator of the whole L'Arche organization, which now operates in 37 countries with 152 communities.
Each webinar will last one hour. We understand that the timing of the sessions will not be convenient in every time zone on the planet. For those who have trouble making this time, a recorded copy of each session will be made available to all those who sign up. CEU credits are available for all those who participate. (See below)
Invitation to write for SDI
All those participating in the webinar will be invited to write for Connections, SDI's quarterly newsletter written by (and for) spiritual companions. The editor, Steven Crandell, will assess each submission for suitability. but every webinar participant who submits a piece will get a personal response and editorial advice whether or not the piece is accepted for publication. In addition, all participants will be invited to write for the SDI blog.
The aim of this series of webinars is to give spiritual companions and seekers insight into the philosophy and practice of one of the great spiritual directors of the 20th century. Participants will be invited to experience this learning opportunity in a personal way by "living" the 10 questions Henri Nouwen poses. Those in listening and caring professions should gain deeper appreciation for Nouwen's compassionate yet disciplined approach.
Who may join the webinar?
Everyone is invited to participate in SDI Webinars.
Are CEUs available?
SDI will provide a certificate of completion for self-reporting to agencies continuing education units (CEUs).
Tuition (4-part webinar package):
SDI Member Rate USD$59.00
Non-Member Rate USD$79.00 (additional $20 can be applied to membership after the webinar, reducing cost)
Tuition for webinar participation is non-refundable. All registered participants will receive access to the online recording of the SDI Webinar following the event.
A limited number of scholarships are available for those facing financial hardship. Please apply here.