The James E. Annand Program for Spiritual Formation has been part of life at Yale Divinity School since 1990 when former Berkeley Divinity School Dean James Annand envisioned a program that would add a spiritual grounding to students’ academic life. Sponsored by Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, the program is a gift to the larger YDS community, offering resources that enable all YDS students to discover and try on fundamentals of prayer and creative faith practices for spiritual growth.
Seminarians have the opportunity to engage in either individual or group Spiritual Direction with one of the many experienced lay and ordained Annand Program mentors, who represent a variety of theological traditions and denominational backgrounds. Students also participate in facilitated small groups exploring such topics as vocational discernment, contemplative prayer, and faith practices of particular theologians. Annand spiritual retreats and quiet days are often led by members of religious orders.
Annand Program Resources
Annand Program resources and offerings have evolved over the years in response to changing student needs and interests. The range of Annand opportunities for spiritual formation and growth also varies by semester.
Annand Mentors are the program’s core resource. They are a dedicated team of more than twenty mature and experienced people of faith. Lay and ordained, with training in spiritual direction and group facilitation and representing a variety of theological traditions, the Annand mentors come to YDS from nearby and not-so-near to meet with students and lead groups and workshops. Mentors receive supervision and are committed to safe and ethical practices. Theirs is a labor of love without whom the Annand Program would not be possible.
First-Year Formation Groups are designed especially for first semester students. These groups of five to eight participants meet weekly with an experienced group leader and provide peer support along with introduction to a variety of spiritual disciplines including (but not limited to) fundamentals of prayer, contemplation, meditation, and vocational discernment. Occasionally the Fall semester groups continue into Spring semester by mutual agreement between group members and their leader. Some students transition from their formation group to individual spiritual direction. In recent semester-end formation group evaluations students have written: “All good.” “Highlight of my week.” “Good structure, good bonds, good atmosphere.” “My group is even better than I expected. I am deeply and profoundly grateful for this safe and healing sanctuary.”
Individual Spiritual Direction was the original signature Annand offering and remains the heart of the program. In its most basic form spiritual direction provides regular time and space for one person to accompany another in their faith journey. It is an ancient and timeless practice common to many faith traditions during which a trained Spiritual Director and Directee genuinely present themselves to one another and to God in prayer, meditation, silence, reflection, and conversation to discern God’s presence and movements in all aspects of life. The reasons individuals seek spiritual direction are varied. There is generally a desire for some personal accountability in maintaining regular faith practices and for help in recognizing and responding to God’s presence. Directees may seek to deepen their understanding of the ways of the Spirit, clarify their sense of vocation, or discern how to move faithfully through difficult times.
The Annand Program connects second and third year students with trained Spiritual Directors from a variety of theological traditions. All of them share a commitment to the confidentiality and boundaries that allow honest reflection and exchange. Directees usually meet with their Spiritual Director for about an hour three to four times per semester, without charge. Students interested in finding a spiritual director can begin with a referral interview with the Annand Program Coordinator. To request an appointment please email email@example.com.
Spring Semester Annand Groups are informal topical offerings of various duration from one-session workshops to term-long weekly groups that begin in late January or early February. Led by Annand mentors, these groups foster an atmosphere of mutual listening, both to one another and to the presence of the Spirit within the group. Announcements and sign-up instructions are distributed in December and January via email. Recent groups have included Ignatian Spirituality, Art & Spirituality, Exploring Group Spiritual Direction, Journeying with Julian, Spiritual Dryness, Desertions, and Dark Nights, and “Everything You Wanted to Know about Judaism But were Afraid to Ask!”
Quiet Days are usually offered once per semester. Typically held on a Saturday at Berkeley Center, all YDS students are invited to take some time away from study and other responsibilities to focus quietly on God’s presence. Often led by a monastic visitor, these special oases provide spiritual reflection, refreshment and renewal. Advance announcement of quiet day dates and details are made via email.
Workshops and Retreats may be sponsored by Annand throughout the academic year. Annand is also a referral resource for individual and group retreats at retreat centers and religious houses within a comfortable travel distance from New Haven. Information about Annand groups, workshops, and retreats is regularly circulated by YDS DivMail and posted on the Annand bulletin board in the South Quad hallway near the restrooms. Please send inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.