“If you light a lantern for another it will also brighten your own way.”
Although these words were spoken more than 700 years ago by Nichiren Daishonin, a Buddhist monk, the same attitude is reflected within the 14 students who will be ordained in a special ceremony on Dec. 5, 2014 at 6:00 pm at Southwest Institute of Healing Arts (SWIHA) in Tempe, Arizona. This will be SWIHA’s biggest Spiritual Studies ordination to date.
The ordination will take place during SWIHA’s monthly Gifts and Graces event, held on the first Friday of every month. This event is complimentary and open to the public. Guests are invited to come for the event and stay after to experience complimentary sessions of energy work, spiritual coaching, toe reading and more.
The graduates are Sheila Taylor, Carol Valentino, Diana Claybaugh, Keta Baker, Kathryn Beauchamp, Carole Hewitt, Ronald Tobin, Michael McCaffrey, Lisa Pulce, Tammy Gordon, Brett Getrost, Jeff Cooke, Thalia Randolph and Marika Adams-Vangueety.
Although each graduate will follow a unique path with their ordination, a common thread runs through each one – a strong desire to use a spiritual path to light the way for others.
“I am passionate about the field of spiritual studies and believe it is one of the most important fields of study one can undertake,” said Michael McCaffrey in his essay for ordination into the Universal Brotherhood Movement.
Kathy Shimpock, an instructor for both SWIHA’s online and on campus Spiritual Studies program, said she has seen amazing transformations in many of the students who complete the program.
“SWIHA’s Spiritual Studies program represents every spiritual path – Jewish, Christian, Jain, Buddhist – every wisdom tradition is represented,” said Kathy. “We see students from all walks in life. Some have a strong spiritual connection, others had it, lost it and want it back. SWIHA is such a loving, accepting and non-judgmental place that the unifying message of the philosophy they are studying, as well as the support they receive at SWIHA, allows students to go on a personal journey, heal and transform.”
SWIHA conducts two on-campus and two online graduation ceremonies a year, but on Dec. 5, 2014 the number of individuals preparing for ordination is the highest in the school’s history. The ordination ceremony will be conducted by KC Miller, the school’s founder and an ordained minister for the ordaining body of Universal Brotherhood.
“Not all students who complete the Spiritual Studies program choose ordination,” said Kathy. “Some use it as a basis of understanding, others may choose to incorporate it in their healing practice such as hypnotherapy. However, I think the higher number of men and women who choose ordination seems to reflect the seriousness of their personal view of their spiritual journey.”
The level of spiritual commitment is obvious in the ordination essays the students wrote, such as this excerpt from Thalia Randolph.
“Ultimately by becoming a minister I am making a sacred commitment to myself to be a vessel of love in the world. I see myself as an interfaith mystic with my beliefs focusing heavily in Taoism, Buddhism, Shamanism and yoga. Becoming a minister will allow for even more opportunities to reveal themselves on my path! I want to share what I’ve learned and my experiences with those who are seeking to live life a little more free.”
Another example is defined by Carol Valentino’s essay. She wrote:
“I know that God has plans for me and I am ready to do or go wherever I am needed. Once I am ordained I will be able to reach others even more.”
Another newly ordained student, Sheila Taylor, is anxious to embrace people who are often neglected.
“I desire to start a street ministry reaching out to drug users, prostitutes, homeless and people that have just lost hope,” Shelia wrote. “I want to meet them where they’re at and be a light of inspiration and hope for them. I want to serve the poor and defenseless. Anyone I meet I want to leave a piece of my heart with each and everyone showing love, light, compassion and hope.”
SWIHA’s Spiritual Studies program is built on an inter-faith, non-rhetorical path of study that emphasizes the student’s individual, personal spiritual mission through the discovery and development of their own spirit-given gifts. The program’s path of study is founded on integrity, community, ideology, and a life of inspiration to self and others, and aims to support those who feel called to a place of spiritual leadership in their lives and in their own communities. This calling may lead to becoming an ordained minister or spiritual healer, or it may direct the student on a journey of self-awakening.
“Graduates often experience a remarkable sense of serenity that comes with spiritual healing,” says KC. “No matter how you classify your spiritual life, you can learn to grow in this program’s inter-faith approach.”
Kathy Shimpock says that many students are drawn to the Spiritual Studies program because they experienced a calling, similar to what student Keta Baker felt. Keta wrote:
“God’s word awakened my inner spirit and started my transformation. The scripture that spoke volumes to me is ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ (Romans 12:2).
Kathy said many students enroll in the Spiritual Studies program because they feel a strong spiritual connection but feel disenfranchised from the religion they practiced in childhood. Such was the case of Diana Claybaugh who was sensitive to energies and saw angels, fairies and the souls of those who had passed on. She wrote:
“My family’s religious practice was Catholic. I loved the church songs, the saints, the stories and the feeling of God’s embrace. However, with my visions and my abilities to see the dead, I was told by religious leaders that I was going to hell and be tortured for all eternity.”
Fortunately Diana experienced a more accepting approach through her studies at SWIHA. Through her journey, she came to understand, embrace and accept that she is very spiritual, compassionate, intuitive and a natural healer.
“I am here on this Earth to fulfill my soul contract,” Diana says.
Another student, Brett Getrost, felt disenfranchised from the religion of his birth due to his sexual orientation. He outlined his journey in his ordination essay:
“In my twenties I wasn’t welcomed in most churches because I struggled with being gay. I came out to my family and pastor where I went on a long journey denying a relationship with the church because I was gay. It was very difficult growing because I constantly was rejected and judged for who I am as a gay male.”
Brett suffered for a number of years but things improved in 2011 when he discovered his authentic self, recognized his self worth could not be diminished by the erroneous belief of others, and continued his spiritual journey. He wrote:
“Everything lined up and I returned back to college at Southwest Institute of Healing Arts in August of 2013. During my journey, I learned to really love myself, even when others couldn’t love me back in return. I gained confidence in myself and understood I could help others on their journey too.”
Spiritual renewal is a familiar process for students in the Spiritual Studies program.
“It is very gratifying seeing people’s lives transform,” said Kathy. “When they can use their personal experience and spiritual knowledge into a tool that helps others, it’s even more satisfying. Each person’s efforts are like tossing a pebble in the lake. The pebble and the initial splash may seem small, but the ripple stretches out to the water’s edge.”
Whether the SWIHA graduates use the knowledge and compassion they learned in their personal lives, ministries, or in their careers as healers, each is lighting a path for themselves and others to wherever their journey takes them.
For more information about SWIHA’s programs, classes or events visit swiha.edu or call 480-994-9244.