History of the Program in
Christian Spirituality

The formal history of the PCS begins in 1979, when author Dr. Morton Kelsey approached Margaret Veneman (then Director of Continuing Education) and SFTS Professor Roy Fairchild with a proposal for a program to train pastors and therapists in spiritual direction according to the vision articulated in his book, Companions on the Inner Way. The SFTS Board of Trustees accepted a multi-year gift from Robert and Betty Buffam of San Diego towards the funding of Dr. Kelsey's proposal, named Dr. Fairchild as Professor of Spiritual Life and Psychology, and affirmed the creation of the Center for Christian Spiritual Disciplines (CCSD), as the Program was then named. Dr. Fairchild introduced spiritual direction to the campus and encouraged students in the "faithful friendship" model. Dr. Fairchild also offered courses in the area of spirituality and psychology within the M.Div. curriculum.

Another significant influence in the establishment of the PCS was the ministry of the Rev. Dr. Howard Rice, SFTS Chaplain and Professor of Ministry from 1969-1997. Beginning in the mid-1970s, Dr. Rice organized retreat opportunities at SFTS for students and local clergy. He also collaborated with Drs. Kelsey and Fairchild in launching "Companions on the Inner Way"—an annual series of lectures and guided retreats on themes of Christian spirituality. In 1991, Dr. Rice published Reformed Spirituality: An Introduction for Believers (with an introduction by Dr. Kelsey) and in 1998, The Pastor as Spiritual Guide.

In 1985 the seminary committed itself to a faculty position in Christian Spirituality and to an ongoing program, which it renamed the Program in Christian Spirituality (PCS) . In 1987, Dr. Elizabeth Liebert was named the new Professor of Spiritual Life and Director of the Program in Christian Spirituality.

In the early years of Dr. Liebert's leadership, she set a priority to broaden services to M.Div. students while continuing outreach to the church community through conferences and retreats. Discussions also began about establishing spiritual direction as a regular service to SFTS students and the larger community through the Lloyd Center for Pastoral Counseling.

Dr. Liebert continued to develop and offer a range of courses for M.Div. students, which grew into the M.Div. Concentration in Christian Spirituality. In the Spring Semester 1992, the first M.Div. students were accepted into the Spirituality Concentration. More than 100 M.Div. students have completed the requirements for the Concentration since its first graduates.
The founding vision for the PCS moved another step forward with the inauguration of a spirituality emphasis in the Doctor of Ministry degree. This emphasis treats spiritual formation and guidance as an important aspect of congregational ministry. The first spirituality emphasis group convened in 1990.

A significant donation enabled the PCS to take another important step, establishing a program for the preparation of persons for the ministry of spiritual direction. After a year of group discernment and planning, the Certificate in the Art of Spiritual Direction admitted its first students in January 1994, under the directorship of Dr. Andrew Dreitcer. In 1995, the Certificate in Spiritual Formation Studies, also under the directorship of Dr. Dreitcer, began serving a group of Korean-American pastors in the Bay Area. Its constituency has subsequently broadened to include all those who wish an in-depth focus on Christian spirituality, either standing alone or in conjunction with another seminary degree.

During this same period, the PCS at SFTS began to sponsor and house the Lilly Endowment-funded research of Mark Yaconelli (DASD 1997) named the Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project. This project sought to reinterpret and introduce various classic Christian practices to church youth and their leaders, and has resulted in the spiritual renewal of young people, youth leaders, and congregations across the country. The insights of Mr. Yaconelli and the YMSP have been published in numerous magazines and journals, as well as in his books, Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus (2006) and Growing Souls: Experiments in Contemplative Youth Ministry (2007).

In 1999, the Certificates were renamed Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction and Diploma in Spiritual Formation Studies in order to further clarify the status of these two advanced programs as graduate-level and credit-bearing—essentially half a master's degree whose course work may stand alone or be transferred into the Doctor of Ministry, Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Theological Studies, or equivalent degrees in other institutions. In 1995, the first students began to combine their work in the DASD with the D.Min., and this dual program continues today. Dr. Kelsey's original vision—the preparation of clergy for specialized ministry in spiritual direction—was finally a reality, but in the process a much broader program, touching many other constituencies, also flourished.

In recent years the PCS has continued to deepen its base within the seminary. In 2000, Dr. Mary Rose Bumpus, then Interim Director of the Diploma Programs, became Director of the Program in Christian Spirituality and Visiting Professor of Christian Spirituality. The addition of this second faculty position at the San Anselmo campus significantly strengthened the ability of the PCS to assist with the spiritual formation of M.Div. students. In recognition of the importance of spiritual formation in ministry preparation, a spiritual formation component has now been added to the M.Div. curriculum.

In 2004, the signature program of the PCS, Companions on the Inner Way, moved to its new home at Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church in San Francisco. SFTS continues to co-sponsor these well-loved retreats, and Joan Currey (DASD 1996) continues as its director.

From July 2004 to March 2006, the Rev. Dr. Rebecca Langer assumed the position of Interim Director of the PCS and Visiting Faculty in Christian Spirituality. In April 2006, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Hamilton-Poore (DASD 1998) became the Director of the PCS and Assistant Professor in Christian Spirituality. Dr. Langer continues to serve the DASD as Director of the Supervised Practice of Spiritual Direction and has been joined in that work by Dr. Maria Bowen. Scott Clark is Interim Program Manager for the PCS.

In 2007, the Rev. Jackie Leonard, a Trustee of SFTS, made a first gift to seminary toward the establishment of the Rice Family Chair in Christian Spirituality. In making this gift, Rev. Leonard sought to honor Howard and Nancy Rice, the late Rev. Wendy Rice Dreitcer and her husband, Dr. Andrew Dreitcer, and their longstanding contributions to the spiritual nurture of students, church leaders, and congregations.

The PCS programs continue to grow and nourish the spiritual life of the SFTS learning community.   Some of the newer programs of the Program in Christian Spirituality include:

  • Before the Cradle, Beyond the Cross – A Retreat for Preachers– This summer, the PCS hosts its third annual preacher's lectionary retreat (July 26-30, 2010).  The retreat blends sermon preparation with spiritual formation as participants work with and encounter the lectionary gospel for the coming year (this year, the Gospel of Matthew).  The 2010 retreat leaders are Rev. Dr. Sam Hamilton-Poore (Director of the PCS), and Rev. Dr. Judy Yates Siker, vice president of SFTS Southern California, and professor of New Testament and Christian Origins.
  • Sacred Quest – In the Fall 2010, the PCS hosts its second Sacred Quest, a 12-day wilderness experience that invites participants to enter into a time of holy silence and integration, deepening their relationship with self, others, creation and God.
  • Together in the Mystery – Dr. Langer and Dr. Bowen have developed and are implementing a training program for supervisors of spiritual directors, Together in the Mystery [www.togetherinmystery.com].  The next class in this program convenes in April 2010.
  • The Center for Nature and Christian Spirituality The PCS has just announced its collaboration with Westminster Woods (a Presbyterian camp in Northern California) in a program for young adults (22-30 years old), who are seeking to explore the connections between Christian spirituality and nature. Participants will experience a year living in Christian community at Westminster Woods, participating in spirituality classes at SFTS, and apprenticing in the areas of permaculture and environmental sustainability.
  • New Orleans Service/Work Trip – With its March 2010 service trip to New Orleans, the PCS continues its multi-year collaboration with the Marin Interfaith Council to serve communities impacted by Hurricane Katrina.
  • Renewal Retreats – The PCS continues to provide support for pastors who seek sabbatical and retreat opportunities on the SFTS campus.

The PCS also continues to seek to broaden and deepen the multicultural experience and awareness of its spirituality programs. 

The Program in Christian Spirituality continues to experience – and give thanks for – the vital movement and energy of the Spirit.  In its continuing life and discernment, the PCS seeks to live out its mission statement:

"The Program in Christian Spirituality invites, equips, and encourages women and men to pay attention and respond to the presence of God in their own and others' lives, the life of the church, the systems and structures of human society, and God's unfolding creation." We invite you to help us fulfill this mission through your participation in any of our programs, your financial support [link to Make a Gift page], or by supporting us with your prayers.


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