Soul Food

Nourishing Essays on Contemplative Living and Leadership

Westina Matthews, Margaret Benefiel, Jackson Droney

Sep/2023, 224 Pages, Paperback, 5.5 x 8.5

ISBN-13: 9781640656345

$28.95

$28.95

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Shalem Institute, this collection of experiential and academic essays offers modern contemplative reflections from new and renowned voices in spiritual leadership.

Founded in 1973 by the Rev. Dr. Tilden H. Edwards, Jr., Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation offers retreats, workshops, and groups centered around contemplative spirituality. The culmination of half a century of charitable ministry, this commemorative anthology features essays written by Shalem graduates, as well as current and former board members and program directors. Its release will coincide with the Shalem Institute’s 50th anniversary.

Co-edited by Shalem graduate and board member Westina Matthews, Shalem’s Executive Director Margaret Benefiel, and Jackson Droney, Shalem’s Director of Operations and Online Learning, Soul Food takes an inclusive and contemporary approach to contemplative living and leadership. Designed in alignment with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives, this vital book spotlights authors of different ethnicities, faith backgrounds, and gender identities, while consistently centering the development of day-to-day practices designed to deepen engagement with the divine. With essays from notable contributors from Shalem's past and present, such as Tilden Edwards, the institute's founder and former director; Gay Byron, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Howard University; and Carl McColman, well-known Christian mystic and spiritual director, this collection looks to the future, set to serve as an invaluable resource in spiritual formation for the next 50 years, and beyond.

WESTINA MATTHEWS is an author, professor, public speaker, and contemplative workshop/retreat leader who served for twelve years as an adjunct professor at General Theological Seminary in the Center for Christian Spirituality. She is the author of Dancing from the Inside Out and This Band of Sisterhood. A graduate of Shalem Institute's Spiritual Guidance Program, she currently sits on the Shalem board. She lives in Savannah, Georgia.


MARGARET BENEFIEL, Executive Director of the Shalem Institute, has served as Chair of the Academy of Management's Management, Spirituality, and Religion Group, as Co-chair of the Christian Spirituality Program Unit of the American Academy of Religion, and in various leadership roles in Spiritual Directors International. Over 3,000 executives, managers, and other leaders have participated in her seminars and courses. She directs Shalem's Soul of Leadership program and has written extensively on various aspects of contemplative leadership and spirituality at work, including Crisis Leadership, The Soul of Higher Education, The Soul of Supervision, The Soul of a Leader, and Soul at Work. She lives with her husband in Greenbelt, Maryland.


JACKSON DRONEY is the Director of Operations and Online Learning at the Shalem Institute. He is a graduate of Shalem’s Personal Spiritual Deepening Program, Young Adult Life and Leadership Initiative, and Soul of Leadership program. At Shalem, Jackson also serves on the faculty of the Crossing the Threshold program and leads Shalem pilgrimages to Spain. He is an M.Div. student at Luther Seminary and is a candidate for pastoral ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). He lives in Washington, D.C.

“Established by Tilden Edwards those many years ago, the Shalem Institute has continued to offer a safe space for diverse individuals to engage with the sacred and restore the divine image of an abundant, loving God. An illuminating addition to any spiritual library, Soul Food is a testament to the institute’s rich history and commitment to transformative spiritual growth.” – Fr. Richard Rohr, author of Falling Upward and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation

"Soul Food is a courageous, liberatory anthology with essential reading for spiritual direction formation and training programs, and for the ongoing personal and professional growth of spiritual companions." —Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction

“Exploring numerous rich perspectives on contemporary Christianity—from gender identity and theological languaging to issues of recovery, welcome and inclusion, decolonization, and social action, among others—the authors are unafraid to tackle new perspectives, all the while staying firmly rooted in the core of their faith. Anyone interested in immersing themselves in these topics will be well served here.” –Rev. SeiFu Singh-Molares, Executive Director, Spiritual Directors International

"With this book, Shalem sets forth a radical agenda for the next fifty years where we must do all we can to bend the arc of the moral universe toward love, truth, and justice. If you have any affinity for the contemplative life, you'll find this book a compelling companion as we work and pray for the Beloved Community." —Parker J. Palmer, author of Let Your Life Speak, The Courage to Teach, and On the Brink of Everything

"Soul Food is a community of contemplative authors also compassionately addressing the ailments of our society. Their work offers us new wineskins of openheartedness, which can help us create a larger table where everyone is invited to sit and have plenty. It invites all to savor Love, the '(Ancient) New,’ and it gives us contemplative ways to do that in a world of collective and personal trauma." —Dr. Carmen Acevedo Butcher, poet and translator of Br. Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence and The Cloud of Unknowing

"Today, if there is one word that says what our human family most urgently needs to recover, awe is that word. Experiencing awe makes us one. Awe is the magic wand that can transform I-thinking into We-thinking and rescue us from self-destruction. That Soul Food devotes so much space to awe honors Shalem’s finest tradition and makes it a most timely book of hope for the world." —Br. David Steindl-Rast, Benedictine monk, author, and co-founder of Grateful Living

"Soul Food is a worthy guide for those who seek to walk in the light and share that light with others. Thoughtful and engaging on many levels, it is indeed a nourishing book." —Sophfronia Scott, author of The Seeker and the Monk: Everyday Conversations with Thomas Merton

"This celebratory volume for the Shalem Institute is less commemorative than exuberant. It marks a rich history of leadership in spiritual formation by offering challenging and visionary reflection on the future of contemplation. The feast offered is varied, rich, and engaging—some of it stimulating, some soothing, all providing much-needed nourishment that defies ready categorization, except for its quality. This is a further gift to all who have benefitted from the work of Shalem, and all who should." —The Very Rev. Dr. Andrew McGowan, Dean and President, Berkeley Divinity School, McFaddin Professor of Anglican Studies, Yale Divinity School

"For an everyday, this-worldly perspective on contemplative life and leadership, read Soul Food. Any one of the essays will be worth the whole book."—Keith Kristich, Meditation Teacher and Founder of the online, interspiritual community Closer Than Breath

"This book is a spiritual gamechanger. Soul Food demonstrates that the life of prayer and contemplation is never detached from the urgent issues of the day, reminding us that the foundation of the spiritual life is all about contemplation and leadership. These essays will make you pray, think, see, act, and live differently. Their voices are the tongues of fire calling us into a new experience of Pentecost and sacred living." —The Rev. Dr. Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones, Priest and Director of Spiritual Formation at Trinity Retreat Center and author of Absalom Jones and Face to the Rising Sun

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