In a recent Peace Talks interview with Therese Taylor-Stinson, host Vanessa Sadler asked her about the “why” behind the Spiritual Directors of Color Network.
Therese: Years ago, when I went through Shalem’s Spiritual Guidance Program, I noticed that none of our required reading was written by people of color. And they weren’t talking about any black writers. I would even go so far as to say that they didn’t know that some of the early church mothers and fathers were people of color. Maybe Augustine of Hippo.
By the way, this is why I value this book I own about Harriet Tubman being a mystic. Because in churches of color, for the most part, those kinds of things are whispered.
I was supposed to write a final paper for the spiritual guidance program. I chose to write an exploration paper on the spiritual formation of people of color. I had to find 20 books on my own that spoke to the spirituality of people of color. It was difficult because the books didn’t speak directly to the topic. As I read those 20 books, I found some of them were very helpful, and some of them less so. (That was how I was first introduced to Barbara Holmes—through her book, Joy Unspeakable.) Through those books, I extrapolated what the spirituality of people of color looked like. This experience made me want to find others like me who were interested in spiritual formation.
I graduated from the program and began practicing spiritual direction in 2005. The Spiritual Directors of Color Network began to form in 2008 at a Spiritual Director’s International Conference. For the first six years, we had conference calls every month.
Then in 2014, we started asking, “Do we want to start our own school of spiritual formation?” Well, some things are harder to do than others. And so writing a book seemed like a good first step. In December 2014, we released Embodied Spirits: Stories of Spiritual Directors of Color, a book about ourselves as persons of color who embrace contemplative practice and how that shows up for us.
In September of 2014, the Spiritual Directors of Color Network became an official nonprofit organization. It’s been a struggle. But we’re doing pretty good right now. There are a lot of very positive things going on right now.
The reason for starting the Spiritual Directors of Color network is because, as I was mentioning about the writing I was doing, there were no recommended readings by people of color. Even now, in most programs, most of the recommended readings are by European writers.
There was no room for African Americans in different traditions to express their spirituality or their connection with the divine. And so we were wanting to make a space where people of color could be comfortable with what they called contemplation.
Vanessa: What do you see as the trajectory for a more integrated approach to spiritual formation training?
Therese: I think that’s happening in places like the North Carolina Institute for Spiritual Direction and Formation which we are also partnered with. We’ve built up a few partnerships with predominantly white organizations too. They have asked us to come in and teach from our perspective. Anam Cara has had me on a panel talking about spiritual direction from different perspectives. Other organizations have asked us to come to retreats they’re having so that there are persons of color available to give spiritual direction or to give some perspective.
Barbara Peacock just opened the Peacock Soul Care Institute which intentionally teaches spiritual direction and spiritual formation training from a variety of perspectives.
We’re also getting ready to have a speaker series. We want to provide a safe space for people of color to share their way of engaging contemplative practices.
For more information on the Spiritual Directors of Color Network—and Therese Taylor-Stinson—please visit their website.