Canadian Leaders Find Resources and Refreshment at Summer Institute

Summer Institute for Spiritual Formation
Professor Wendy Miller engages students in conversation about deepening faith during the Summer Institute for Spiritual Formation.

“I see and hear of so many people who are exhausted, befuddled and a little resentful as they sense a growing irrelevance in doing what they’ve always done,” said Barbara Smith-Morrison, transformational pastor at Bloomingdale (ON) Mennonite Church. Smith-Morrison felt this way four years ago as she began a six-month sabbatical from a pastoral role.

“I longed for a place where God might both soothe my soul and help me remember and discern my calling as a pastor again,” she continued. “Jan Steckley, a good friend and pastoral colleague, recommended that I look into the Summer Institute for Spiritual Formation at Eastern Mennonite Seminary.”

The Institute is a two-week summer program which offers classes, worship and experiential learning in the area of spiritual formation. It teaches spiritual directors and ministry leaders how to deepen their own faith and lead others in doing the same. Students can receive up to four seminary credits each summer and a certificate from the Institute after completing three summers.

“A part of the gift that the Summer Institute has offered me is simply remembering and orientation.,” continued Smith-Morrison, “I have often times fallen under the sneaky and incorrect perception that I am or we are responsible for the life, health, direction and ministries of the church.

“My myriad experiences at the Institute have helped me to remember that I am a regular woman who is not responsible for it all. It reminds me that I am created and loved immensely by God and am given grace upon grace in this life.”

Sandra Shantz, chair of the leadership council at St. Jacobs (ON) Mennonite Church, said, “The Summer Institute gave me the opportunity to explore spirituality on a very personal level while providing vocabulary and academic structure has allowed my heart and my head to communicate.

“It has helped me to push my comfort zone in spiritual conversations and to bring that piece to my leadership roles,” she added.

Six church leaders in Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (MCEC) are taking what they learned at the Summer Institute for Spiritual Formation and creating a program for spiritual growth in MCEC.

“Tending the Soul of Individuals and Congregations” is a two-year program involving six retreat weekends. Dr. Wendy Miller, a teacher in The Summer Institute, will lead these retreat weekends.

“We are very excited about our first of six weekend retreats Oct. 1-3,” said Shantz. “I believe there is a strong desire by many people to explore the depths of their own spiritual beings, and the Summer Institute equips people to do just that, and to help others, like those of us in MCEC, to tend to that longing.”

Eastern Mennonite Seminary offers three masters degree programs, including a master of divinity. The graduate school of theological education is located on the campus of Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va. For more information about the Summer Institute for Spiritual Formation or any of the programs at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, contact the office of seminary admission at or 540-432-4257.