Mission and Philosophy


St. John's Center for Spiritual Formation is an autonomous, educational organization which fosters interfaith dialogue, practice, and cooperation. The Center offers individual spiritual direction, interfaith meditation instruction, theology classes, and seminars promoting inter-cultural understanding. It also provides guest speakers and retreat leaders to organizations requesting these services. St. John's Center is open to all people of good will, regardless of religious background or current religious allegiance.

The director of St. John's Center is Sister Ellen Finlay, a solitary nun in the Anglican tradition. Sister Ellie's broad background is in keeping with the Center's mission. Her studies include traditional Christian monastic discipline, biblical studies and ascetic theology in addition to secular training in philosophy, psychology and counseling. An experienced spiritual director and retreat conductor, Sr. Ellie has specialized in the theory and practice of meditation and has studied with meditation teachers in several traditions, most intensively within the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.

Since its founding in 1996, the Center has drawn more than 2,000 people from an astonishingly diverse community. While the majority of people in the interfaith meditation groups are practicing Christians, class members have also included quite a large number of Buddhists. Members of the Sikh, Jewish, Hindu and Unitarian religions, some people who have never had any religious affiliation, and a large number of lapsed, marginalized or otherwise disaffected church people have also participated in significant numbers. The growth of understanding between the various traditions results not from debate or endless discussion of doctrinal differences, but through observing silence together and exploring how the mind works--aspects of the human experience common to all.

St. John’s Center for Spiritual Formation has demonstrated both its commitment and effectiveness in the ministry of reconciliation required for the 21st Century. As the Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed, we must come together on the impressive common ground shared by the great world religions to share our common task to build a more just and peaceful world.