History of The Center


The initial work of The Center was made possible by a grant from Trinity Church, Wall Street, in 1997. This grant was awarded based on the application developed by the Rev. George D. Kontos, then-Associate Rector at St. James; and, Edward H. Henderson, Ph.D., parishioner, Professor of Philosophy, and then-chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Louisiana State University.

The concept for The Center for Spiritual Formation was unique in that was, to our knowledge, the first such center operating as a program of a parish church.

The Center is now fully funded by St. James Episcopal Church and continues to offer programs of spiritual deepening to enrich the lives of our parishioners and the larger community. Funding from the church allows us to offer programs at little to moderate cost to participants.

Over the course of The Center's history, a number of nationally known speakers have been brought to the community, as well as outstanding programs led by those within the St. James community.

Speaker & Event History


The Rev. Robert Haden of The Haden Institute, presented "Spiritual Formation from a Jungian Perspective," on April 25-27, 1997. Fr. Haden's visit was the impetus for an interest in the labyrinth and dream work as forms of spiritual enrichment. One parishioner undertood further study in understanding dreams and in leading others in using dreams as a spiritual tool. Interest in the labyrinth led the Christian Education committee to purchase a canvas labyrinth, available for use at St. James and, by special arrangement, other groups in the community.

Andre Papineau is a member of the Salvatorian community and associate professor of pastoral studies at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Franklin, Wisconsin. He has been teaching homiletics there since 1979.  With advanced degrees in drama and theology, he gives presentations, lectures, and workshops on preaching, storytelling, and transitions for teachers, clergy, and the general public across the country.  He is the author of ten books including Jesus and the Kingdom of Nobodies and Breaking Up, Down and Through on transitions. He spoke at The Center on October 16, 1998 on spirituality in times of transition.

Diogenes Allen, now-retired professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and well-known author of numerous books on theology and spirituality, was at The Center on November 19, 1998. He addressed a large group of parishioners and others from the Baton Rouge community, the diocese and beyond, exploring the theology of the church through an exploration of the work of the seventeenth century-poet, George Herbert.

The Rev. Dr. John Westerhoff was invited to St. James in a joint sponsorship between The Center and the St. James Christian Education Committee. He spoke to the community about spiritual formation and faith development in a weekend series of presentations, Will Our People Have Faith? on February 28-March 1, 1999. Dr. Westerhoff is a theologian, prolific writer and a popular speaker on Christian formation.

Patton Boyle is an Episcopal priest and pastoral counselor psychotherapist. He conducts workshops, and writes books about the path of spiritual growth and discovery. He gave a series of lectures November 19-20, 1999 on the mystical aspects of spiritual formation.

Gerald May was well-known for his writings on psychology and spirituality. He authored numerous articles and books, including Addiction & Grace, Will & Spirit, The Awakened Heart, and most recently, Dark Night of the Soul. From 1983 to 2005, he served at the Shalem Institute in Washington, DC, USA, as Director of Spiritual Guidance, as Director for Research and Program Development, and finally as Senior Fellow in Contemplative Theology and Psychology. He was at The Center March 31-April 2, 2000 and presented on "Letting God Guide." The program was approved for CEU credits for social workers and certain other professions.

The Rev. Fleming Rutledge was at The Center December 1-3, 2000 for "Advent Weekend: The Armor of Light." The Rev. Rutledge, having spent twenty-two years in parish ministry, now has an international preaching vocation. Her three sermon collections, The Bible and The New York Times, Help My Unbelief, and The Undoing of Death, have met with wide acclaim across denominational lines. Her most recent book is Not Ashamed of the Gospel: Sermons from Romans. She is also author of The Battle for Middle-earth: Tolkien’s Divine Design in The Lord of the Rings and The Seven Last Words.

The Rev. Sandra Casey-Martus conducted a weekend program on Centering Prayer, Feburary 1-4, 2001. Sandra Casey-Martus at the time was on the staff of the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest and director of a retreat house in Alta, Wyoming. She worked with Fr. Thomas Keating, a leader in the introduction of centering prayer as a spiritual discipline for today’s spiritual seeker.

The Rev. Ward Ewing, then Dean of General Theological Seminary in New York, New York, presented “Spirituality and the Church Today,” April 28-29, 2001, in conjunction with the Center’s “Spirituality and the Arts” program and the dedication of the new space for the Center for Spiritual Formation on the third floor of the new Ministries Center at the southwest corner of Florida and Fourth Streets.

Spirituality and the Arts, April 20 through May 6, 2001, was a two-week celebration of the opening of the St. James Center for Spiritual Formation on the third floor of the Ministries Center. A variety of events throughout the period offered spiritual enrichment through both music and the visual arts. Artists from the St. James and Baton Rouge community had the opportunity to display and sell their work.

The Rev. Stephen Holmgren, then rector of Grace Church, St. Francisville and Canon Theologian for the Diocese of Louisiana, visited November 30 and December 1, 2001, on ethics and moral theology based on his book, Ethics After Easter, a part of the New Church’s Teaching Series. Holmgren currently serves as rector of Grace Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Raymond Calvert conducted a seven-week series in iconography beginning February 9, 2002, in conjunction with St. Joseph’s Cathedral. Participants learned about the creation of icons and wrote their own icons, which were blessed in an ecumenical Eucharist.

Dr. Ralph C. Wood, professor of theology and literature at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, spoke on spiritual issues in Lord of the Rings on Monday, January 21, 2002.

Spirituality in Different Traditions: Threads in a Tapestry, a study of contemplative spirituality in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions led by three LSU professors.

The Rev. Sandra Casey-Martus returned for an encore workshop on Centering Prayer, November 1-3, 2002.

The Rev. Margaret Guenther, an Episcopal priest and widely sought as a spiritual director, conducted a weekend workshop, "Teach Us To Pray," March 14-16, 2003. Her books include Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction, Toward Holy Ground: Spiritual Directions for the Second Half of Life, The Practice of Prayer, volume four of the New Church's Teaching Series, and My Soul in Silence Waits: Meditations on Psalm 62.

The Rev. Dr. Stephen Holmgren returned to lead a five-part Lenten program in which he explored questions addressed in his book, Ethics After Easter.

Webcast Classes from The General Theological Seminary: (1) Readings in Spiritual Autobiography, January 5-9, 2004, explored the process of spiritual formation using the vehicle of diverse and contrasting contemporary spiritual autobiographies. (2) The Theory and Practice of Lectio Divina, January 12-16, 2005, reviewed historical roots of sacred reading (lectio divina) and explored the dynamics of this foundational Christian spiritual discipline in dialog with linguistic, literary and psychoanalytic theories.

Dr. Ralph C. Wood returned February 6-7, 2004, to introduce and discuss his book, The Gospel According to Tolkien.

Captured by the Crucified: A Conference and Spiritual Life Workshop Celebrating Austin Farrar's Lived Theology in the Centenary Year of His Birth  was held November 4-7, 2004. This celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of noted twentieth century theologian Austin Farrar, was sponsored by the Center in conjunction with the LSU Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. Part I was devoted to the critical, scholarly exploration and interpretation of the practical theological dimensions of Farrar’s work and that of his friends. Part II was a ‘faith and life’ workshop putting Farrar’s work and words to work in the life of faith, combining more devotional presentations with spiritual exercises: reflection, discussion, the labyrinth, music, solitary prayer, and corporate worship. Presenters at the conference included Farrar scholars from the U.S. and abroad.

Dominic Crossan, author of Who Killed Jesus? Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of The Death of Jesus, The Historical Jesus, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, and The Essential Jesus, and a codirector of The Jesus Seminar, spoke at The Center May 14-15, 2004.

Bro. Mark Brown was at the Center on October 15-16, 2004, and conducted an experiential teaching on contemplative prayer.

Fred Bauerschmidt presented “Why the Mystics Matter Now” on May 13-14, 2005. He is Associate Professor of Theology, Loyola College, Baltimore, MD.

Dr. Andre Delbecq, on March 16-18, 2006 presented "Managing Organizational Change in Times of Crisis: Wisdom From the Spiritual Masters." Dr. Delbecq is a nationally known organization and management expert in the business and academic world who specializes in the spirituality of organizational leadership.

The Rev. Sandra Casey-Martus returned for a third workshop on "Centering Prayer, The Spiritual Journey: An Invitation Into the Heart of God," on October 26-27, 2007, teaching a Christ-centered model she developed from her years of study and practice.

The Rev. Barbara Crafton, an Episcopal priest, spiritual director and author, as well as an actress, director and producer, presented a workshop on "Forgiveness: What It Is and What It Isn’t," February 22-23, 2008 that was widely popular and appreciated by the parish and community.

Sr. Joan Chittester on "God, The World & The Gap Between: Telling the Story a Different Way" in November 2011, and as local webcast partner of the Trinity Institute in December, 2012.

Marcus Losack with "Celtic Spirituality in the Christian Tradition" in April, 2013.