Center for Spiritual Life and Leadership
Growing Deeper Together for Spirit-led Leadership
We believe that spiritual formation is leadership formation and that the need for deeply grounded Spirit-led leaders has never been greater. We exist to help lay and clergy spiritual leaders grow deeper together so that we can refine our ability to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit as we seek to embody love and do God’s will. Doing this requires an experiential, transformational knowing and relationship with God that the world is hungering for and that is driving people to seek it both inside and outside the church. We need to be attentive to this reality.
Our desire is to support spiritual leaders in the practices that will help them grow in and lead others in this kind of experiential relationship with God healing love. This is a lifelong journey that requires vulnerable honesty within an ever-deepening experience of community and a humble disciplined prayer life. Our hope is that God works in and through our efforts to transform hearts and lives in ways that grows us ever more fully into a God-given, God-empowered embodiment of love and wisdom that is the root of all true spiritual leadership and is the source that radiates through us to draw others into a relationship with God.
And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to discern what really matters. - Philippians 1:9-10a
We are living through a time of great change and instability. Living in such a time asks that we surrender our agendas and assumptions of the past so that God can lead us into a future that we cannot yet fully see. We can only do this with full awareness of our utter dependence on God and with a pervasive trust that God is guiding us one step at a time into a future that we neither possess nor can create. We need each other’s help to wait patiently with palms open to receive what God is trying to give us, and we cannot do this if we are grasping for the future or clinging to the past.
We are inviting all who are called to deepen their Spirit-led leadership to join us for communal contemplative and discernment practices designed to help us empty ourselves so that we can better hear the whispers of God welling up within us rather than echoes of our own thoughts and feelings, and so that we can become less dominated by our reason and ego demands. This is not a “program” but is a way to support our lifelong commitment as spiritual leaders to grow ever more fully into the person and the leader God created us to be.
Let the message of the Chosen One become a deep watering hole inside you. It will then become a refreshing spring as you teach and guide one another with wisdom and understanding. - Colossians 3:16, First Nations Indigenous Translation
The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. - James 3:17
Richard Rohr, among others, proclaims that our age is ripe for a resurgence of entering mystery through contemplative and deep end spiritual practices. We agree. CSLL initiatives are designed to focus on depth over extent because we trust that depth will create extent. Our approach has a simplicity that may feel lacking within a culture of “productivity,” but we have confidence in Jesus’ promise that if we stay deeply rooted in him, that we will bear much fruit.
We believe that God’s love is the only power strong enough to transform the world and that tapping into this love in an experiential way, is the only way to become Spirit-led leaders. We believe that all other leadership techniques, although helpful at times, are far secondary and that without the proper foundation in Christ, they are rather empty and powerless. Our call is to sink our taproot into the deep well of God’s love and to live and lead from this place.
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us.
- 1 John 4:12
The need to support one another has never been more important as we continue to experience and learn to lead through the impact of a global pandemic, political polarization, racial tensions, and social-cultural conflict. We need each other to remain healthy and resilient in our life and our ministry and to help us deepen our Spirit-led leadership. This is deeply personal work that benefits from open, honest reflection. We need to create communities of leaders who are committed to prayer, to listening, and to the deep inner work needed to help us see more clearly, love more freely, and follow more courageously. We are invited to grow deeper together so that we can be more fully equipped to lead others in their journey.
Rev. Dr. Laura Brantley, CSLL Director
Rev. Dr. Laura Brantley has been appointed by Bishop William T. McAlilly to serve as the Director of CSLL. For 10 years, Laura served as the Lead Associate Pastor at Brentwood United Methodist Church and prior to that she worked as an Industrial Organizational Psychologist in corporate, academic, and consulting organizations. Laura has a passion for bringing people together who seek to deepen their experiential knowledge of God’s transformative, healing love through contemplatively grounded spiritual practices. Laura was ordained as an elder in the United Methodist Church in 2012.
Gigi Johns, Administrative Coordinator for the CSLL
Gigi Johns graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a BA with Distinction in Speech Communications. She has worked in sales in Charlotte, NC, social work in Richmond, Virginia, and as a preschool music teacher and then Director of Contemporary Worship at Southside UMC in Jacksonville, Florida. She and her family moved to Brentwood in 2013, where she has been busy raising her three daughters and volunteering at Brentwood UMC and in the local community. She is excited about her role as Administrative Coordinator for the Center for Spiritual Life and Leadership.
I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:17-19