Nan Merrill (1931-2010) is perhaps best remembered as the author of Psalms for Praying, an elegant paraphrase of the Book of Psalms, and Walking with Wisdoma collection of 20 unique and contemporary meditations. In 1987, Nan founded Friends of Silence, a monthly newsletter of quotes encouraging the spiritual path.  32 years later, the Newsletter continues to be written and published, and it continues to inspire an international community of contemplatives. Nan was a friend and spiritual guide to thousands in person and through her writings. Nan served as the Assistant Director of The Guild from 1979-1984, and worked tirelessly to the support The Guild program and philosophy.

“I truly believe we stand on the brink of either a great darkness beyond imagining or, if humanity can awaken to our environmental, societal, institutional challenges, we can create a global garden where lasting peace, true justice, integrity, cooperation, freedom, and respect for all peoples and all of creation will reign.  I believe that as individuals offer their ‘grain of sand’ gifts, a tide of growing goodwill and service will wash over the earth – a groundswell of renewed life for everyone.”

Nan Merrill

Henri J. M. Nouwen (1932-1996) was a much-loved priest, professor, theologian, retreat leader, and the author of dozens of books including The Wounded Healer and The Return of the Prodigal Son. In Reaching Out he explores the three movements of the spiritual life which lie at the heart of three of The Guild’s four strands.  In the early years of The Guild, Nouwen occasionally served as spiritual guide to the leadership of the Apprenticeship Program. It may be said that Nouwen found his greatest satisfaction as the pastor to L’Arche Daybreak community in Richmond Hill, Canada, where he spent the last ten years of his life.

“Thus, the spiritual life is that constant movement between the poles of loneliness and solitude, hostility and hospitality, illusion and prayer. The more we come to the painful confession of our loneliness, hostility and illusions, the more we are able to see solitude, hospitality and prayer as part of the vision of our life.  Although after many years of living we often feel more lonely, hostile and filled with illusions than when we had hardly a past to reflect upon, we also know better than before that all these pains have deepened and sharpened our urge to reach out to a solitary, hospitable and prayerful mode of existence.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen

Madeleine L’Engle (1918-2007) is best known as a writer of young adult fiction, most notably, perhaps, A Wrinkle in Time, although her writings encompass more than fifty books across a range of fiction, non-fiction and poetic genres. She is the subject of a recent spiritual biography, A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engleby Sarah Arthur, which eloquently delineates the “embrace of paradox” which characterizes L’Engle’s thought. Until her death, Madeleine L’Engle led writing retreats at Holy Cross Monastery in New York’s Hudson Valley. 

 “…[M]yth is the closest approximation to truth available to the finite human being. And the truth of myth is not limited by time or place. A myth tells us that which was true, is true, and will come true. If we will allow it, myth will integrate intellect and intuition, night and day; our warring opposites reconciled, male and female, spirit and flesh, desire and will, pain and joy, life and death.”

Madeleine L’Engle

John R. Yungblut (1913-1995) was the Founding Director of The Guild for Spiritual Guidance and a guiding presence until his death. Yungblut served in the Episcopal ministry for 20 years before being led to the Society of Friends. Inspired by the work of Rufus Jones, Martin Luther King, Jr., Loren Eiseley, Thomas Berry and Joseph Campbell, he was renowned as a retreat leader, mentor, spiritual guide and counselor. In addition to The Guild, Yungblut founded Touchstone, Inc. which continues to offer spiritual direction for those “pursuing an inward journey to the Self, God within.” Among his five books, The Gentle Art of Spiritual Guidance and Shaping a Personal Myth to Live By remain especially pertinent and profound.

“…I am addressing primarily that solitary individual who has already recognized a stirring or prompting within his or her heart that has evoked a sense of possible vocation for the awesome work of spiritual guidance. I would help that person in further discernment of this gift, this ministry, for which the ordination is from on high. I would also speak to the seeker who has sincerely and consciously embarked on the inward journey to the self and is therefore aware of the need for a spiritual guide. For the journey to the self is at the same time the great journey to the Self, the God who dwells within.”

John R. Yungblutt