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Spiritual Formation Course Descriptions

SPFM 5201 – Spiritual Journey
This course, typically offered in the fall semester, is an introduction to foundational biblical themes and understandings of Christian spiritual formation with an emphasis on Christian faith as a journey. This course will seek to integrate the individual and communal elements of spiritual formation, and the personal and public character of the Christian life with an understanding of the student's personal formation journey. The intent of the course is practical, experiential, and formational. Included in the course will be both a teaching component and formation sessions facilitated by a formation leader. It is recommended that these foundational courses be taken before other required and elective spiritual formation courses.

SPFM 5202 – Spiritual Practices Spiritual Formation: Christian Life II
This course, typically offered in the spring semester, introduces students to a variety of classical and contemporary spiritual practices that are meant to invite the student into a deeper sense of God's presence in their interior lives and in the world around them. The biblical and historical contexts for spiritual practices will be explored and discussed in and out of class session. Spiritual practices will include, but are not limited to, biblical prayer, centering prayer, hospitality, praying and working for justice, self-examination, and discernment. The intent of the course is practical, experiential, and formational. Included in the course will be both a teaching component and formation group sessions facilitated by a formation leader. It is recommended that these foundational courses be taken before other required and elective spiritual formation courses.

SPFM 6209 – African & African-American Spirituality
This Spiritual Formation class will engage African American Spirituality and Religion as the means by which we seek to experience transformation that comes through deep study and immersion of the diverse spiritual practices of African Americans. Spiritual practice in and outside the classroom is required as are site visits to various religious and cultural institutions of black Americans here in Chicago.

SPFM 6210 – Spiritual Autobiography
This course is designed to read and reflect on a variety of spiritual autobiographies in the Christian tradition so that one is better able to reflect on one's own life and to develop the tools to write one's own spiritual autobiography.

SPFM 6214 – Writers in Spirituality
This course focuses on the personages of spiritual writers and their products as well as the effects of their contributions on the church and spiritual life in general. A combination of writers will be discussed. The goal of the course is the development of the students' own spiritual discipline(s) and writing about the same.

SPFM 6215 – Prayer and Life in the Spirit
Five northside Chicago theological schools comprise the Northside Chicago Theological Institute and jointly offer this course. Taught ecumenically in scope and intensively in retreat setting, it is designed to provide students and professors the opportunity to explore the roots and development of various Christian spiritual traditions through study and applied experience.

SPFM 6216 – Prayer Across Culture
This pilot spiritual formation course will utilize the Lord's Prayer as foundational to all prayer and explore its ability to cross the divides of community, culture, and history. The biblical and theological significance of the Lord's Prayer in various Christian traditions will be explored in a dialogical and experiential format utilizing a variety of classic spiritual disciplines including Lectio Divina, Centering prayer, prayer of the body, and iconography, to name a few.

SPFM 6220 – Journaling As a Spiritual Practice: a Pathway Toward God and the Self
This course helps the student encounter God through personal journal writing in the context of an online community. Students will be listening and responding to others in confidential, online small groups. A variety of different journal writing exercises on specific topic areas are introduced to lead students into a deeper understanding of God's presence, as well as self-knowledge and personal growth. Topics covered include, but are not limited to, writing as attentive listening; writing for healing; writing that looks to the past, the present, and the future; seeing the holy in the ordinary; and dialogue journaling. It is expected that students who complete this course will have journal-keeping as a tool for prayer and a way to self-awareness.

SPFM 6303 – Embodiment
This course will seek to develop self-awareness as to how people inhabit their longings. The focus of this study will be discernment as to how the body might experience and express longings for personal health, relational intimacy, sexual integrity, and vocational satisfaction, in ways that embody the expression, The body is for the Lord and the Lord is for the body (cf. I Corinthians 6:13).

SPFM 6304 – Spiritual Direction and Solitude
Students will be introduced to solitude as a spiritual practice and the discipline of spiritual direction as a personal spiritual practice. Through a required solitude retreat, an orientation to solitude and silence, and a review of the group silent retreat, students will be experiencing and reflecting on their own experience. An understanding of spiritual direction will be available through readings, course lectures, and four required sessions of personal direction with a designated director. Lecture topics include, but are not limited to, the history of spiritual direction, the similarities and differences between related disciplines, the use of the Bible in direction, the role of discernment in direction, the practice of group spiritual direction, and spiritual direction within a ministerial vocation.

SPFM 7190 – Special Topics in Spiritual Formation
This course will focus on various special topics in spiritual formation.

SPFM 7205 – From Hostility to Hospitality
The focus of this course is on the dynamic of the movement from hostility to hospitality. Hostility is the abusive violation of the otherness of persons, while hospitality is the practice of personal charity and public justice. How conflict, anger, and hurt can be transcended without being denied and how power can be used redemptively will be explored in this course.

SPFM 7206 – Christian Spirituality & Health
The purpose of this spiritual formation course is to explore the interrelationships between spirituality and health from a personal faith perspective. The multiple dimensions of Christian well being will be considered, focusing on the individual with consideration given to spirituality and the health of families, congregations and communities.

SPFM 7390 – Independent Study in Spiritual Formation
An opportunity for students to explore a topic of interest outside the regular curriculum. Instructor's permission required. Submission of course proposal/syllabus to the academic dean is required.

SPFM 7501 – Foundations of Listening & Discerning
As the first of five courses in a program leading to a certificate in spiritual direction, this course will provide foundational information, experiences, and processes for the participant's development and discernment as a potential spiritual director. Beginning with a day-long retreat, the course will focus on listening to God, the self, the other, the Word, and the world. Each participant will receive some individual spiritual direction, engage in a peer listening group, and begin a process of self-discernment.

SPFM 7502 – Listening & Discerning Practicum I
Practicum I is designed for program participants who desire to continue to discern their call and giftedness into the ministry of Spiritual Direction as begun in Course 1 of the program. Work will be done in the participant's home region with support from the course coordinator at the Center in Chicago. In addition to the core requirements of ten meetings with a spiritual director and the online journaling component, participants will have flexibility to study a topic of personal interest in Christian Spirituality. The course begins on the first day of the Seminary's fall semester and ends on the last day of the spring semester.

SPFM 7503 – Spiritual Directing: Listening to the Movement of God With Another
The middle year will focus on skill development as a spiritual director. In the classroom, program participants will give and receive direction from each other, developing skills through practice and evaluation by supervisors. Participants will be introduced to the practice of the Verbatim, which will be a requirement during Practicum II. The course will begin with a required retreat day.

SPFM 7504 – Spiritual Directing Practicum II
Practicum II is designed to develop experience and wisdom in spiritual directing through receiving spiritual direction, giving spiritual direction to others, receiving supervision for spiritual directing, reading and dialoging with supportive literature, and studying specific relevant issues in spiritual direction.

SPFM 7505 – The Ministry of Spiritual Direction: Listening to God in the Church and World
The final course will focus on developing a spiritual direction perspective for ministry in the church and world by developing further the sensitivities and capacities for spiritual direction ministry. We will consider special issues in spiritual direction such as group spiritual direction, considerations of cultural, class and gender considerations, managing a ministry, and leading retreats. Participants will offer spiritual direction and meet in peer groups with facilitators for supervision and encouragement during the week. Devotional, contemplative and reflective activities, including a day retreat, are an intrinsic part of the intensive.