Intro to Spirituality

Instructor: Paula J. Lee, PhD


Course Synopsis

An exploration of “spirituality” and “spiritual but not religious” in contemporary public and scholarly discourse, and the implications for those who nurture the spiritual lives of others.

Course Overview :

What are the challenges of “spiritual” formation when the term itself is contested and understood in multiple and sometimes conflicting ways? We will consider beliefs and practices of the “spiritual but not religious” population, compare and assess definitions of “spirituality,” and explore its Christian historical antecedents. Questions will be explored through the lenses of historical and contemporary thinkers as well as the ways students understand and nurture spirituality in their own ministry contexts. We will “trace the sacred” as it manifests in sometimes surprising ways in contemporary life. Please Note : Because we cannot do justice to all spiritual expressions in one class, this course engages Christian spirituality and the many different forms and directions it has and continues to take. While we do not specifically reference other spiritual traditions, the

Introduction to Spirituality Bibliography 2018.pdf

includes a wide variety of resources from a diverse range of perspectives, and you are welcome to write about any tradition you wish for your Portfolio 4 assignment. If you have suggestions for additions to this bibliography, I will be happy to add them.

Course Objectives:

Required Course Media


Bregman, L. (2014). The ecology of spirituality . Waco, TX: Baylor University (ISBN: 978-1-60258-967-4)

"In The Ecology of Spirituality , Lucy Bregman surveys the many and varied religious, psychological, and sociological definitions of spirituality on offer. Spirituality has been made and remade many times over in the hope of fitting it to some new cultural need. Bregman argues that a better understanding of spirituality is instead rooted in specific professions and practices, and she demonstrates that it is not an irrevocably ambiguous pop cultural phenomenon, but is embodied in historic virtues and practices of a craft."

Mercadante, L. A. (2014). Belief without borders: Inside the minds of the spiritual but not religious . Oxford: Oxford University Press. (ISBN: 978-0199931002)

"The last twenty years have seen a dramatic increase in 'nones': people who do not claim any religious affiliation. They are not to be confused with secularists, however, for many of them identify themselves as 'spiritual but not religious' (SBNR). Some complain 'nones' are simply shallow dilettantes, narcisistically concerned with their own inner world. Others hail them as spiritual giants, and ground-breaking pioneers. Rarely, however, have these 'nones' been asked to explain their own views, beliefs, and experiences. Linda Mercadante finally gives these individuals a chance to speak for themselves."

Sheldrake, P. (2013) (2 nd Edition). Spirituality: A brief history . Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell. (ISBN: 978-1-118-47235-4)

"Engagingly written by one of the world's leading scholars, this comprehensively expanded edition tells the story of Christian spirituality from its origins in the New Testament right up to the present day. It charts the main figures, ideas, images and historical periods, show how and why spirituality has changed and developed over the centuries. Sheldrake deftly extracts the distinctive themes of Christian spirituality, exploring the historical and cultural experiences that changed people's attitudes and practices."

Be sure to check Taylor Collection @ Iliff, University of Denver collections, and Prospector Union Catalog for access to these required media. If you decide to purchase any or all of these items, some suggested sellers/renters are Scribd, AbeBooks, Amazon, and Google Books.

Incompletes : Incompletes are not allowed for this course.

Introduction to Spirituality Course Requirements:

Reading and Participation in Online Group Conversations- (60% of grade)

Based upon: contributions to collaborative learning; timeliness of reading and small group discussions; degree of progress over the quarter; and evident effort. Your preparation for and participation in the small group online interactions is essential to the learning of your colleagues, as well as your own.

For these discussions to be meaningful conversation spaces, we all need to take responsibility for consistent and substantial participation. Discussions will be graded based on the degree to which you substantially engage in the conversation each week. Substantial engagement means:

Guidelines for Discussion Engagement

Extend the conversation – creatively and critically push the conversation forward, do not just regurgitate what has already been said. If other students have already responded to the questions for the reading, add something new to the conversation. Extend the conversation by adding an additional or different insight from the readings, by asking a new question that stems from one of the posts already offered, by offering a related and contextualized example of the issue being discussed from your own experience, or by creatively integrating your own perspective with what has already been posted.

Ask contextualized questions – situate your questions within the discussion by reference course materials and other parts of the conversation thread that inform your inquiry. Give us a little background as to why this question matters to you and how it relates to the course.

Engage others in the course – thoughtful engagement with other students and with the instructor.

Engage the course materials – thoughtful engagement with readings and other materials related to the course. Referencing and citing course materials in your posts where appropriate is encouraged.

Each post need not do all of these things, but your overall participation in each conversation should demonstrate all of these components. You might have several short posts and a handful of longer posts in a week or you might have only a few strategic substantial posts. Either way, your overall participation in each conversation will be evaluated for substantial engagement. The goal of this discussion design is to encourage and reward interchange, so post often and engage each other with meaningful questions that open to other questions.

Portfolio- (40% of grade)
Portfolio assignments are due June 30, July 14, July 28, and August 11, as noted below. A rubric is provided with the assignment. See below for full details of your portfolio options.

Portfolio Guidelines (adapted from Katherine Turpin, PhD)

What is a portfolio?
Portfolios invite you to ‘do’ learning as well as read and study ideas. They assume that you are a self-motivated and exploring learner monitoring your own process and engaging class materials and issues analytically, reflectively, and constructively. They allow you to pace your own learning and production around the demands of other classes. They are a particularly useful learning form when you are entering a new practice or discipline of study.

There are many ways of using a portfolio as a representation of your work and the process of your learning. However you decide to organize the portfolio, it should be a documented collection of the development of your work over the quarter including analytic, reflective, integrative, and synthetic materials. The portfolio is also an opportunity to demonstrate your ongoing engagement with the course texts and concepts, so be sure to connect your own learning with these materials.

Portfolios allow students to carefully attend to and develop their own learning. They increase the emphasis on learning processes, noting and analyzing them and evaluating them as they evolve. They make it easier to rewrite, rethink, plan, and revise through self-generated attention and encouragement in partnership with instructors and classmates. Undertake short projects and reflections. Then be willing to go back, mull some more, polish, and push yourself in your thinking.


What should be in my portfolio?
Each portfolio will be unique to the learner who creates it. It should be an expression of the work you have done during the quarter with the subject before us. Each portfolio should contain:

One entry (3-4 pages) from the Theoretical Analysis category (see below)
One entry (3-4 pages) from the Critical Reflection on Contemporary Understandings of Spirituality category (see below)
One entry (3-4 pages) from the Constructive Thought and/or Practical Applications category (see below)
One entry (3-4 pages) from the Mediated Expressions and Understandings of Spirituality category (see below)

The portfolio should demonstrate in-depth conversation with multiple course readings.


Theoretical Analysis - Due June 30
Entries in this section are an opportunity to formally engage with the theories and concepts in course readings and materials. Choose one:

1. Argument Outline—Go back to a reading you found particularly engaging or important and outline it. Add your own clarifying examples, and reflect briefly on its strengths and shortcomings.

2. Synopsis—Similar to an argument outline, but more appropriate for shorter texts. Provide a short and focused (2-3 paragraphs) statement of the main point or idea of the text. Add your own clarifying examples, and consider its strengths and shortcomings.

3. Critical Engagement—For a reading with which you disagree, make a case for your differing point of view. Draw on other readings and class discussion as helpful.

4. Experimental Appropriation—What would it be like to think like those with whom you disagree? Try to apply the ideas of such a thinker to your own life and understandings. What is at stake for the author? What do they consider important, and why?

5. Communal Engagement—Say you have a conversation with a classmate, friend, or other colleague about a theory or concept that we have encountered in class. Capture the dynamics of that conversation and your resulting new insights or questions in writing.

6. Imaginary Encounter- Pretend that two of the authors from our class readings had a chance encounter at a professional meeting in which they got into a conversation about their own ideas. What would come up in that conversation? Where would they agree or disagree? You may write this either as a transcript of their conversation or a prose piece. (If you’re not feeling fanciful, you could write this up as a standard, though brief, compare/contrast piece.)

7. Genre Shift—What would it look like if the author tried to capture his or her ideas visually rather than in prose? What would the author’s ideas sound like in poetry, fiction, or song? Try to translate the author’s ideas into another form of expression.

Critical Reflection on Contemporary Understandings of Spirituality – Flipboard Magazine: Spirituality Today - Due July 14
This section provide an opportunity to reflect on the understandings and expressions of spirituality in contexts other than your own, specifically as drawn from articles on FlipBoard that you or others add to our class magazine. Each one of us will contribute to building this magazine which can be found at: At least once per week, explore articles looking for contemporary expressions of spirituality, and add relevant ones to our class magazine.

Your assignment for this element of the Portfolio is to choose one of the articles from our magazine and reflect on it in light of the following quote from Douglas Burton-Christie. In what ways is the article you chose “an expression of spiritual longing” outside of traditional religious boundaries? Is this indicative of a search for spiritual meaning? What is your personal reaction to it?

Burton-Christie quote: “Another important instance of critical correlation that the Christian community is called to is the work of attending carefully and thoughtfully to those expressions of spiritual longing that arise outside the Christian tradition. Here, I mean to include not only the spiritualities of the major world religions, but also the many, often hidden, expressions of such spirituality that fall outside the conventional boundaries that we normally think of when we are evaluating the locus and meaning of religious practice and consciousness. There has been growing attention to this “non-religious” or “secular” spirituality in recent years (Schneiders 1994, 2003; Torrance 1994; Van Ness 1996; McGuire 1997; Taves 2003). Gradually, we are beginning to understand the myriad ways in which both Christians and non-Christians improvise their spiritualities, drawing freely and eclectically upon a range of spiritual traditions, often with relatively little attention to the way in which the established traditions set the terms of belief. Concern has grown over what some see as a tendency toward the erosion of coherent belief and practice capable of being transmitted from one generation to the next. However, these developments surely signal something else, which is undeniably positive and creative: the desire to discover spiritual meaning in spite of the perceived inability of established religious traditions to provide it. It suggests a vitality and elasticity to the human capacity for transcendence which must, after all, lie at the very root of any meaningful understanding of spirituality.” (Burton-Christie, Douglas, Chapter 27, Nature, in Holder, A. (2010). The Blackwell companion to Christian spirituality. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, p. 480).


Constructive Thought and/or Practical Applications - Due July 28
Entries in this section provide an opportunity to work constructively with the concepts of the course and to think about how they might play out in ministerial contexts. Choose one:

1. Theory in Practice: Imagine and describe an educational event or class in your own vocational setting that embodies a theory, model, or concept that we have studied. This could include a new idea you have had for how you might teach some aspect of spirituality or how you might creatively structure a class based on the readings we have done. This could be an opportunity to write up a course outline, for instance, along with some explanation of how they embody a particular theory or idea.

2. Constructive Pedagogical and Ministerial : Drawing on your own synthesis of readings, experience, and wisdom, write a brief response to one of the following or a similar question:

How do I understand my authority as minister/teacher/chaplain? What gives me authority? How does that authority function within diversities and institutional structures? How do I wish to wield that authority, specifically in the context of providing spiritual formation for others?
What is the relationship of formation and personal faith understanding in your own ministerial setting (or anticipated setting)?
What are unique challenges for teaching your subject in multicultural (intergenerational, interfaith) settings, and what approaches best suit these settings?
How does the experience of lived community relate to individual learning in spiritual formation settings? What kind of classroom tone and community do I hope to create, and how will I go about creating it?

3. Artistic Reflection- Write a poem, short story, or hymn text that embodies your understanding of the process of spiritual formation or your personal spiritual self-understanding. Write a paragraph-length explanation of the image that would hang under it if it were in an art show.

4. Vocational Credo- Write a statement of your understanding of how your vocational journey will call on you to engage in spiritual formation. In what settings and situations do you imagine this happening? What commitments, strategies and approaches will be important to you as you do this work?

Mediated Expressions and Understandings of Spirituality - Due August 11
Entries in this section enable you to engage with film or print as an opportunity to explore resources that may be of use to you personally and/or in your work.

1. Film Reflection - Choose a film that explores how religion and/or spirituality are lived and practiced. Describe how this film might inform spiritual formation in your current or anticipated ministry situation.

Some suggestions: (feel free to choose something else)
Into Great Silence (2005)
Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero ( (Links to an external site.))
The Diary of a Country Priest (1951)

2. Book Reflection – Choose a book from the course bibliography that either applies to your ministry setting or is completely different from it, and something you want to learn about. Describe why you chose this book, how it is interesting for you, and brainstorm some ways you might use this knowledge.

How will my portfolio be evaluated?
I will provide feedback and a grade for each piece of your portfolio as it is uploaded to our Canvas site. Each category of entry has a rubric associated with it which you are able to view on Canvas.


Introduction to Spirituality Bibliography 2018.pdf

Degree Learning Goals: Please take some time to look over the Professional Degree Learning Goals (MDiv, MASC, MAPSC) and the Academic Degree Learning Goals (MTS, MA).

Incompletes:  If incompletes are allowed in this course, see the Master's Student Handbook for Policies and Procedures.

Pass/Fail:  Masters students wishing to take the class pass/fail should discuss this with the instructor by the second class session.

Academic Integrity and Community Covenant:  All students are expected to abide by Iliff’s statement on Academic Integrity, as published in the Masters Student Handbook, or the Joint PhD Statement on Academic Honesty, as published in the Joint PhD Student Handbook, as appropriate.  All participants in this class are expected to be familiar with Iliff’s Community Covenant.

Accommodations:  Iliff engages in a collaborative effort with students with disabilities to reasonably accommodate student needs.   Students are encouraged to contact their assigned advisor to initiate the process of requesting accommodations.  The advising center can be contacted at or by phone at 303-765-1146. 

Writing Lab:  Grammar and organization are important for all written assignments.  Additional help is available from the Iliff Writing Lab, which is available for students of any level who need help beginning an assignment, organizing thoughts, or reviewing a final draft. 

Inclusive Language:  It is expected that all course participants will use inclusive language in speaking and writing, and will use terms that do not create barriers to classroom community. 

Jun 13, 2018WedWeek 1 - What is Spirituality?due by 05:59AM
Jun 19, 2018TueWeek 2 - Spirituality and the Seculardue by 05:59AM
Jun 26, 2018TueWeek 3 - The Practice of Spiritualitydue by 05:59AM
Jul 03, 2018TueWeek 4 - Spirituality and Authoritydue by 05:59AM
Jul 10, 2018TueWeek 5 - Evolving Spiritualitiesdue by 05:59AM
Jul 20, 2018FriWeek 6 Continued - Niches for Spiritualitydue by 05:59AM
Jul 24, 2018TueWeek 7 - Spirituality and Communitydue by 05:59AM
Jul 31, 2018TueWeek 8 - Post-Modern Spiritualitydue by 05:59AM
Aug 07, 2018TueWeek 9 - Post-Secular Spiritualitydue by 05:59AM
Aug 14, 2018TueWeek 10 - Final Thoughts Discussiondue by 05:59AM