The Pacific Center for Spiritual Formation was founded in 1984 by a group of clergy and lay leaders of diverse spiritual backgrounds who shared the experience of being trained as spiritual directors at The Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Washington, DC. In the summer of 1984, Francis Geddes, Carol Saysette, John Stansbury, Bill Moremen, Joanna Macy, and Rich Byrne gathered every Wednesday morning to share contemplative prayer together. Through prayer and contemplation, they felt called to offer wider opportunities for contemplative practice and spiritual deepening throughout the Bay Area. From this initial commitment grew weekly "Pilgrimage Home" contemplative practice groups, inspired by the work of Gerald May.
As others were invited to the staff and board of Pacific Center, the location and variety of program offerings grew. In addition to local contemplative practice groups, Pacific Center for Spiritual Formation has offered workshops, retreats, guest lectures, and classes.
Pacific Center has enjoyed a special relationship with the renowned Jesus scholar Marcus Borg, who has been most generous in offering lectures, workshops, and retreats. Other spiritual leaders, such as Huston Smith, the late Gerald May, and Tilden Edwards, have offered retreats, lectures, and dialogues sponsored by Pacific Center.
Pacific Center continues to offer regular opportunities for contemplative prayer, retreats, and spiritual guidance to those seeking a deeper connection to the Holy. The following are currently serving as board members for Pacific Center: Rod Dugliss, Donald Felt, Joyce Harris, and Susan Murphy.
Leaders and Founders
Margaret Leahy Conner
Margaret is a spiritual director, retreat leader, and community builder with a lifelong passion for the spiritual pathway. Her foundation is based in the traditions of Catholic Christian and Hawaiian spiritualities. Margaret includes silence, dance, visual arts, chant, and music in her expression of the sacred. She is on the team for Guided Imagery Retreats and leads Women’s Circles. Margaret is interested in nurturing the spiritual life of children of all ages, the spiritual life of families, and the spiritual life of communities so that the physical life can be lived in harmony, integrity, and joy.
Rod is the Dean of the Episcopal School for Deacons, a working ground for the nexus of prayer and praxis, contemplation and action. He is a Shalem trained spiritual director, a member of the Shalem Society for Contemplative Leadership, and on the regional staff of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. He co-leads Pacific Center's annual summer silent retreat on Buddhist and Christian meditation practices.
Debbie is a spiritual director and retreat leader. She graduated from San Francisco Theological Seminary in the Art of Spiritual Direction is now on staff at the Interfaith Counseling Center on the San Francisco Theological Seminary campus where she practices spiritual direction and facilitates a women’s meditation group. She gives seven-day guided image and music retreats through the Personal Growth Project directed by Joan King.
Jane is Director of Strategic and Community Partnerships at Catholic Charities. She is a commissioned presenter of Centering Prayer by Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. and has offered introductory workshops and written about contemplative prayer and its positive effects on a person's health and spiritual life. She is interested in the intersection of contemplative practices and social justice as they contribute to inner peace and outer social harmony. Jane received her Doctor of Ministry from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley and her Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary.
Richard is a psychotherapist in private practice who has had a lifelong interest for the integration of spirituality and the psychological healing process. His experience includes leadership for church liturgy, retreats, contemplative prayer and meditation groups and a daily practice of Centering prayer. For many years he has been an oblate with the Camaldolese Benedictine monks at the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California. He is also an associate at the Interfaith Counseling Center in San Anselmo, CA.
Joyce is a meditation leader, group facilitator, and a professor emeritus in Computer Science. A laywoman in the United Church of Christ, her spiritual life has been influenced by Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu practices. She is interested in building bridges between different faith traditions and the relationship of depth psychology to religious life. She co-leads the weekly contemplative practice group in Los Altos.
Andrew is a PhD student at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, where he studies medieval mysticism and spirituality, Christian history, and comparative religion. At Graduate Theological Union and at San Francisco Theological Seminary, he has taught the academic study of mysticism as well as practical courses on contemplative spirituality. Blending teaching from the mystics with contemplative practices, he has created and led meditations and retreats for San Francisco Theological Seminary, the Marin Interfaith Council, the Episcopal School for Deacons, and the Episcopal Diocese of California.
Kathryn is passionate about sharing contemplative practices and helping cultivate new contemplative lay leaders as a lay leader herself in the Episcopal Church. She explores and shares contemplative practices through restorative circle practices, chant, and exploring art as a contemplative practice, especially knitting and crochet. She serves as a retreat leader and a beginning spiritual director. At Christ Episcopal Church, she leads the prayer shawl ministry, which makes knitted and crocheted shawls as physical expressions, and also provides spiritual formation workshops.
Susan is a spiritual director and retreat leader, and Professor Emerita at San Jose State University in nursing and health professions. She is a Quaker and an ordained member of Thich Nhat Hanh's Order of Interbeing who actively practices and leads Buddhist and Christian meditation. Susan has served on the regional staff of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. She is also a Courage & Renewal Facilitator, offering retreats that foster personal renewal, professional integrity, and vocational clarity for educators, spiritual leaders, and others who yearn to make a difference in the world. Susan co-leads the PCSF contemplative practice group in Los Altos and our annual silent retreat that offers both Buddhist and Christian meditation practices for participants to practice and integrate.
Kevin Omi is a United Church of Christ pastor and co-chair of a Committee on Ministry. He is a graduate of and peer group leader with Shalem’s Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats program. He leads retreats and gatherings using both Christian and Buddhist practices for the Pacific Center for Spiritual Formation and is working toward a diploma in spiritual direction at the San Francisco Theological Seminary. Prior to ministry, he was an information technology leader for many years, most recently with Kaiser Permanente.
Jan is a spiritual director and pastor. One of Jan's great joys is teaching the arts of prayer and meditation, self-reflection, and discernment—practices that lead to an inspired faith in the midst of everyday work, play, relationships, and service. She currently serves as Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael, a multicultural congregation devoted to spiritual growth and social justice. She earned the Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction and her Masters of Divinity degrees from San Francisco Theological Seminary. Formerly, Jan was a business executive in marketing, strategic planning, and cultural change (organizational development) and a nonprofit consultant.
Ruth specializes in the integration of spirituality, open-hearted communication, and psychology. Her approach emphasizes bringing spiritual connection into daily life and all relationships. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Spiritual Director, United Church of Christ minister, Certified Internal Family Systems Therapist, trained in Non-Violent Communication, and a student of the Diamond Approach for thirteen years. She offers programs, groups, and retreats as well as individual sessions. She is the author of Spiritual Freedom. For more information, visit livingfromwithin.com.
Lorna is a retired teacher–school administrator of San Rafael City Schools. She received her B.A. at Whitworth College, her M.A. in Education Administration at San Francisco State University, and her Diploma in Spiritual Direction from San Francisco Theological Seminary. Lorna is a Spiritual Director at the Interfaith Counseling Center of the Bay Area. She meets with individuals and small groups accompanying those in discernment and seeking to recognize the Divine Presence in their journey. Lorna is former Clerk of Session at First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael and also teaches spirituality and child and adult education classes.