The Art of Teaching Spiritual Discernment with Listening Hearts Ministries

The Beecken Center of the School of Theology is partnering with Listening Hearts Ministries to offer two intensive, four-day retreats to train participants in the art of facilitating and mentoring spiritual discernment groups using the Listening Hearts approach. Held at the DuBose Conference Center in Monteagle, Tennessee, the retreats will include communal meditation activities; workshops that teach the practical aspects of teaching spiritual discernment; and a series of discernment sessions, each of which is followed by a reflective review to gain insight into the elements that bring forth fruitful discernment. Both retreats offer the same content. We are offering two retreats in order to accommodate the schedules of those who would like to attend.

The program has an "at-home" component: For four weeks prior to each retreat, the At-home Preparation will begin on Saturday (July 6, 13, 20, & 27 for the August retreat, and Feb. 1, 8, 15, & 22 for the March 2020 retreat). Participants will introduce themselves to members of their small group by writing a summary of their spiritual journey over time; then read and study informational material that is crucial to serving in the discernment groups they will be taking part at the residential portion. Finally, each person will prepare a focus-person write-up for a life issue of their choice for which they would like discernment. The anticipated average time required each week is roughly three hours.

Clergy, laypersons, and professionals of all faiths (or none!) are welcome to attend!

Retreat 1: August 5–9, 2019
Pre-work: the weeks of July 6, 13, 20, and 27

Retreat 2: March 2–6, 2020
Pre-work: the weeks of Feb. 1, 8, 15, and 22, 2020

Tuition: $750
Includes four weeks of at-home preparation (about three hours of work a week for four weeks leading up to the retreat).

Lodging not included. Lodging reservations may be made directly with the DuBose Conference Center using this form for the August retreat. Lodging signup for the March retreat is forthcoming.

Registration for the August retreat closes July 2, 2019.
Registration for the March retreat closes Jan. 29, 2020.

These retreats are geared to spiritually mature leaders of all ages who are committed to the principles set forth in Listening Hearts. They afford each participant the opportunity to enter into discernment in relation to his or her own life while also learning to train and mentor discernment groups.

Participants will work in small groups, each with its own mentor. Silence, song, imaginative engagement with Scripture, creative meditation activities, and contemplative sharing of reflections combine to draw each group into the flow of the Spirit. The trainings include a series of discernment sessions, each followed by a reflective review to gain insight into what contributes to fruitful discernment in community. Workshops lay out the practical aspects of training discerners.

What participants are saying:

"I feel so full and empty at the same time. The retreat nourished me."

"This program provides an experience, or at least the opportunity for experiencing group discernment in the Holy Spirit. I believe I experienced it – very eye-opening."

"I am so grateful for the experience of sharing discernment in a group. It could not have been described adequately."

Prior to At-home preparation, it is essential that each participant procure a copy of the Listening Hearts 20th Anniversary Edition: Discerning Call in Community by Farnham, Gill, McLean, and Ward.

This Listening Hearts retreat can count as Alternate Mentor Training for Education for Ministry (EfM) mentors. Requirements for Alternate Mentor Training include having completed two Foundations Trainings, being "Formation ready," not having completed another Alternate Training within the last three trainings, and not needing to go back to Foundations after three Formations. Contact Elsa Bakkum, EfM Associate Director for Training, at for Alternate Training credit.


March 2020 Program

Frances Sullinger was trained in Listening Hearts discernment in 1990, then as a trainer in 2001, and is an active Listening Hearts trustee. Frances took a lead in developing the Community Discernment of Calls to Ministry program and is active in the church at both the parish and diocesan levels. Her background includes teaching at the university level and serving as a Foreign Service officer with the State Department. She resides in Centreville, VA.

Susan Heath was trained as a Listening Hearts trainer in 2014 and is a senior program associate of Listening Hearts Ministries. Susan has served on the Commission on Ministry in the Episcopal Diocese of New York for ten years. As a diocesan discernment facilitator, she trains parish discernment committees and led the effort to create a Parish Discernment Committee Handbook. Susan has been active in the life of St. Michael’s Church in New York City as a lay eucharistic minister/visitor, healing prayer minister, and pastoral caregiver; and in diocesan affairs as a Trustee and formerly a member of the Standing Committee. Susan was an editor at Saturday Review Magazine and went on to be a program development officer at PBS/WNET. She resides in New York City.


Registration for the August retreat closes July 2, 2019.
Registration for the March retreat closes Jan. 29, 2020.

Having trouble with this form? Register here. Meals & lodging are not included with tuition and must be arranged directly with the DuBose Conference Center using this form for the August retreat. Lodging signup for the March retreat is forthcoming.

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