For our community, “Selah” represents the space between words, the heart of silence, the space for contemplation. It is a simple and sacred word that invites us to pause and wonder.
The original meaning of the word is somewhat mysterious. “Selah” can be found in the Psalms of the Torah and less frequently in a few other places in the Bible. In the Psalms it is thought to signal a space for a musical interlude. It has been translated to mean “to pause,” “to stop and listen,” or “to give attention to something heard.”
We are a community that pauses – between actions, thoughts, and words – to listen. When we pause we let things settle, we notice what surfaces, we awaken to what we are not yet seeing, and in so doing divine things begin to reach our hearts.
The Heart of Contemplation
We have the capacity to experience all of life as sacredly-held in this very moment.
Contemplation is an activity that is described as a state-of-mind, or better yet a state-of-being.
As a concept, contemplation has evolved over time. Some have demystified the experience to just “thinking deeply”, while others have remained closer to its sacred roots. The word comes from Latin roots, where “con-templum” represented the notion of being with God in sacred space.
Searching across the information landscape, there are a wide range of definitions for contemplation. Following along a secular-to-sacred spectrum of these understandings, we can find “thinking about something” at one end and “union with God” at the other. In between we read expressions for contemplation such as “deep reflective thought,” “a conscious awareness,” “an intense examination,” “concentrating on spiritual things,” “a consent to God’s presence and action” and “a state of mystical awareness of God’s being,” just to name a few.
For our Selah community, contemplation is all this and more. It is a particular posture of the heart that encourages our capacity to gaze, wonder, reflect, ponder and respond in the here-and-now. It is for deep listening into ourselves, each other, divine love and the natural order of life. It is the practice of gazing upon God, waiting upon the Spirit, listening for the Divine, opening to the Sacred, holding silence in Yahweh, consenting to the Presence and encountering Christ in the everyday. Contemplation is a way of experiencing eternity as sacredly-held in this very moment.
We offer courses, events, resources, spiritual direction and community
in support of contemplative living.
Selah affirms the initiating and transformative love of God expressed profoundly in the Creator, Holy Companion, and Christ Jesus which forms the foundation of Selah’s Intention, Values and Expressions.
Selah is a welcoming community that pauses, encounters the Spirit through contemplative practices, and grows together toward wholeness and loving others.
Our Values and Expressions
Welcoming God’s love as the true Source of our being, our belonging, and our becoming.
We value Contemplative Living – Selah values Contemplative Living through spiritual
practices and grace.
- We recognize the triune presence of God as the One who fills each moment with us, gives inspiration for vision, births newness and hope, and reconciles all creation.
We value Generous Listening – Selah values Generous Listening given through pause, listening, and responding to self, others and God as we turn to wonder rather than quick judgment.
- We relate to God and others with receptive hearts, minds, and bodies, nurtured in the way of Christ Jesus.
We value Community – Selah values spacious community and mutuality as a shared contemplative journey with others.
- We honor the uniqueness of all persons as the recognized presence of Christ Jesus.
We value Love in Action – Selah values responding to God’s transformative love in kind
and meaningful action for the sake of others.
- We encourage an openness toward, sanctuary for, and hospitality to all persons.
Rooted and grounded in love, shaped within the Christian tradition while accompanying those who wander through other faith expressions, Selah nurtures those who seek spiritual companionship on the journey of life in whatever circumstance, such as:
- Desiring a deeper experience of God who is Love
- Seeking sustainable soul care
- Wanting something more out of a driven life
- Longing for meaning in a culture of distraction
- Finding a community who listens
- Navigating transition in an ever-changing world
- Experiencing crisis that requires courage and perspective
Musings from Selah’s Board President
In the spirit of Selah being a community that takes time to pause, I’d like to invite you to do so with me. Notice the work of the Spirit amongst us as a community. Savor the fruits of those who have invested in this work.
Fifteen years ago, with inspiration, skill, and unique giftedness, Selah’s Founding Director, John Kiemele, envisioned, birthed, and nurtured Selah in its first ten formative years. As a parent might form a supportive community around their child, he invited in and developed a close community of fellow contemplatives who shared his vision. He also provided room for others, introducing them to and guiding them in the contemplative life. John’s leading and nurturing of Selah through its childhood gave it a solid ethos and foundation, setting it up for stability in its ongoing organic growth in the years to come. For John and his birthing of Selah, we are so grateful!
As he transitioned to a new phase of his life, our now Executive Director, Mary Pandiani, first served as Interim Director and then later was asked to step into the permanent role of Director. In her discernment process, I recall Mary considering what she would uniquely have to offer Selah in the next stage of its development. It became clear to her that her vision and gifting was to develop and lead leaders, expanding the capacity of what Selah could provide in depth, width, and geography. In addition, this would offer others the opportunity to grow and deepen in their spiritual journey, empowering them to use their gifts to support the spiritual growth of others. She was shepherding Selah into its teen years, providing presence, guidance, and release as Selah and its leadership further spread its wings.
At the time, little did she, or any of us, know there would be a pandemic that would halt in-person gatherings. As a result, many organizations, churches, and non-profits were forced to shut down or reduce their offerings. Selah, though, with the growing use of virtual gatherings, was able to respond to the need for spiritual community and nurturing. Now people from a wide range of geographical locations could participate in the contemplative community from the safety of their homes. Selah continued to flourish, and Mary’s Spirit-led leadership guided Selah in navigating the challenges of its teen years, allowing those challenges to be a catalyst for further growth and development. For Mary and her discerning spirit, we are so grateful!
Having emerged from the isolated phase of COVID, Selah has continued to live into ever-expanding growth. Selah now has an increased paid staff, board, facilitators, curriculum developers, a marketing team, a creative and generative team, those offering classes, and gathering hub leaders… thirty-seven people in all. In addition, Selah has an ever-widening group of people who participate in the offerings of Selah from as far away as Switzerland. More to celebrate. More gratitude.
This increase, I believe, reflects the work of the Spirit and the faithfulness of our leaders. They have paused, noticed, listened, and responded to the Spirit’s invitation to birth, nurture, grow, and release. As a result, the Selah community is equipped to continue experiencing a deepening union with the One who holds us all in great love.
Savoring all that is and anticipating what is to come,
Selah Board President
In the Spring of 2006, after intriguing conversations with a variety of people about spiritual formation in ordinary living and particularly the shared desire to grow in contemplative dimensions of the Christian life, John Kiemele sensed the vision for a “center.” By August of 2006, 25 people, including friends from SoulStream Initiatives of Abbotsford, BC, Canada, gathered in John’s Gig Harbor home to hear the seed-vision and committed to pray on a regular basis as the vision began to unfold. In December of 2006, a Leadership Team emerged that began learning about and experiencing contemplative living, and also hammering out some organizational details around what was to become officially known as Selah Center by October of 2007. The name “Selah Center” emerged from the rarely used Biblical word, “selah,” found most often in the book of the Psalms. In that context, the most common definition suggests “selah” pertains to pausing and giving thoughtful, meaning-filled consideration to what has been heard or sung. Pausing…meditating…contemplation…hmmm….this seemed fitting for this unfolding vision. A Board of Directors was formed as well as a team of regular facilitators. Originally comprised of men and women mainly from Gig Harbor, these teams now have expanded to include others from the greater Puget Sound area.
The purpose of Selah Center is to invite all people to pause, and to cultivate contemplative experiences with Jesus leading to inner freedom and loving service. In short, Selah Center invites people to pause and learn to savor life in the way of Jesus as it was meant to be. The heartbeat of the Selah Center is to nurture contemplative experiences with Jesus in community and share resources and companions leading to inner freedom and loving service.
Beginning in January of 2008, Selah Center launched several regular experiences such as Spiritual Direction, Retreats, Reading Groups, Selah Prayers, Courses and Seminars. Selah Center filed an application for its 501c3 non-profit tax-free status with the IRS in September of 2008, and received this privilege by December of that same year (you have to ask about the story behind the Selah goblet below!). By July of 2009 we began renting a day-time drop-in facility at 3419 Harborview Drive in Gig Harbor where dedicated volunteers helped ready the facility to host individuals and groups in this welcoming, peace-filled space at the harbor’s edge. A website was developed to communicate the happenings of Selah Center (www.selahcenter.org).
In January of 2010, we experienced a transition called “Selah Stretch” when founder and executive director John Kiemele faced his family’s relocation away from Gig Harbor. By September of 2010, Selah Center was offering its unique invitation in both Gig Harbor and in north Seattle locations. After several months of discernment, the Board of Directors voted to cease renting a facility in Gig Harbor and began the transition from an emphasis on programs to an emphasis on being a community of contemplatives with a focus on two initiatives: contemplative living resources and community formation.
We are excited to watch God continue growing the resources and community of Selah as we companion people throughout the Puget Sound. To God be all the glory!
Board of Directors
Selah has a community that includes a board of invested contemplative peers along with a dedicated group of Companions who accompany one another on the journey of contemplative living.
Meet some of the board members below:
Lorina Meade began her Selah journey in 2015 as a participant in Living from the Heart. She came longing for deepening encounters with God, curious about matters of the Spirit and soul, and desiring greater inner freedom, spaciousness and wholeness. Through Selah she experienced spaces full of grace, nurturing and community in which she encountered God in new and fresh ways. Lorina’s background is in education and ministry and after LFTH she became certified as a spiritual director. She now offers spiritual direction, leads Soul Care groups, teaches and facilitates, offers contemplative experiences in her church and is trying to live into the intersection of contemplation and action as well as lead others in this. Lorina lives in University Place, WA with her husband J.B. and their almost launched son Sam and dog Zoe. She relishes time spent with their adulting son Ben. She loves to re-create in the beauty of the PNW, read, learn, travel, explore new places, create welcoming spaces, and spend time with family and friends.
Mark Olson is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church. He served churches in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Colorado, before moving to Chicago in 1998 when his partner, Doreen, began a position with the denomination. Following a couple of interim pastor roles, he became Dean of University Ministries and then Dean of Enrollment at North Park University in Chicago. He retired in 2015 and moved to Bellingham, where he participates in the life of Bellingham Covenant Church. He has extensive experience with non-profit organizations and boards of all sizes. His current interests include the Creation Care ministry at Bellingham Covenant and he has facilitated a variety of groups and classes on different topics, including Creation Care. He serves on the team that supports the Pastor of Christian Formation at BCC. A life-long boater, he is co-owner of Tranquillus Charter LLC in Bellingham and does much of the year-round work of maintaining a 42 trawler in charter-ready condition. His spiritual director has suggested that his work on the boat, usually done in some solitude, is in keeping with good Benedictine understanding of working with one’s hands.
Doreen Olson | “Like craftsmen working on a great cathedral, we have each been given instruction about the particular stone we are going to spend our lives carving, without knowing or being able to guess where it will take its place within the grand design.” (N.T. Wright, Surprised by Scripture)
As an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church, I have served its 800+ churches in the area of Christian Formation, leading the denomination toward a more whole-istic head, heart, and hands approach to education. The classic spiritual disciplines, including spiritual direction and contemplative prayer, have been key in making that shift. I’ve now entered the season that some call retirement and I live in Bellingham, WA. The ministry of spiritual direction as well as introducing others to ancient and newer forms of contemplative prayer continues to be at the heart of what it means to ‘carve my particular stone’ faithfully and well. I’ve also found joy in developing a new non-profit called PlayFull, whose mission is to help people and organizations play from the inside out. A timely and needed focus in our world. I’m grateful to be part of Selah. I believe that what we offer contributes beautifully to God’s grand design, bringing a quiet, focused strength to the world.
Edie Finnell found Selah when she was invited to participate in a SoulCare group. The gracious listening and peaceful space she experienced and continues to experience in that group have been a welcome rhythm in the striving of daily life. Edie’s SoulCare group, along with the Living From The Heart cohort she was part of, have fostered a way of living that embraces stillness and the discovery of the wonder that rests in the ordinary. Edie lives in Edmonds WA with her husband Dave and their three young daughters. Some of her favorite things to do are reading, discovering new children’s literature, exploring the outdoors with her family, and baking bread.
Cindy Waple was introduced to Selah in 2013 when asked to be a spiritual director for a participant in Living from the Heart. From that initial relationship, she was introduced to Mary and eventually became a participant in soul care groups and most recently, was part of the 2019-2020 Living from the Heart cohort. Cindy has been involved in spiritual formation and the contemplative lifestyle for many years and continues to marvel at the richness and depth of learning and living as God’s beloved. She holds a BA in Christian Leadership and is a spiritual formation teacher, facilitator, spiritual director and transition coach. Before retiring in 2014, Cindy served as Spiritual Formation Coordinator for World Vision US, creating, leading, teaching and providing resources focused on the spiritual nurture and development of staff.
Andrew Larsen works as a consultant and player-coach with many churches and organizations seeking to understand the “other” and empower peacemaking initiatives. He is a public speaker and preacher but also comes alongside as a teacher and leader to help groups engage each other. He utilizes relationship building between communities, often using photography and a growing network of relationships across the country in both churches and mosques. He aligns in ministry with the Covenant Church (consulting with both Love Mercy Do Justice and Serve Globally–departments within the denomination) but also collaborate with other groups. He helps advance this kind of ministry through multiple program ideas they’ve perfected over the years including: peace feasts, multi-faith dialogue events, “cultural listening” events where they learn about a specific demographic in the Muslim community, visits to the other community, and many other community building activities. Additionally he works in peacemaking and storytelling in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, completing two documentary films called, “Blessed Are the Peacemakers: One Man’s Journey to the Heart of Palestine” and just recently finishing another movie, “Make Hummus, Not Walls
Mary Pandiani, D.Min, Executive Director
Mary leads the community and organization through its current transition period into future possibilities. Mary has served in various capacities for Selah, including as a founding board member, seminar/group leader, and co-facilitator for Selah’s extended programs, Living From The Heart and Way of the Heart. Mary is a spiritual director and coach, co-facilitator for a spiritual direction training program, and advisor for doctoral students. Mary received her Doctorate of Ministry at Portland Seminary, and her work focuses on a posture of contemplative living across the seasons of life. Her foundation starts with a love for the God who wants to be known and a desire to help others to pause-notice-listen-respond in ways that lead to a deeper understanding of God’s divine invitation. With the support of her husband Bill, Mary serves Selah while also enjoying her family of four adult daughters and their families. Mary lives in Gig Harbor WA where she knows the value of beauty in creation and the gift of community.
Erika Mariani, Executive Assistant
Erika grew up in Spokane but has spent most of her life on the West side of the state, beginning with her years as an undergrad at Pacific Lutheran University. Here she met her husband, Mark, and they have been married for 25 years and have three boys, Luke (16), Kellen (14) and Zeke (11) and a mini golden doddle, Rudy. They have lived in the North End of Tacoma for the past 17 years. Before starting a family, Erika spent four years in California and graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary with an MA in Theology. She has spent the last two decades working and volunteering in college ministry, small group ministry, women’s ministry, and youth ministry. For the past eight years Erika has enjoyed being involved in contemplative communities, especially with Selah Center. She decided to become a certified Spiritual Director and recently finished the Listening with the Spirit program through St. Placid Priory Spirituality Center. In her free time Erika loves to play golf and tennis, go on long walks with friends, attend her kids sporting events, and travel with family. She feels blessed to be working for Selah for the past year.
Stacia Pew, Communications Strategist
As Selah’s Communications Strategist, Stacia develops and designs the Selah website, e-communication, and marketing materials. She and the Communications Team strategize ways to increase interest and participation in the Selah community and its offerings.
Stacia has owned her graphic design business, Back2Back Design, for over 20 years. She also served as Graphic Designer, Missions Specialist and Lay Counseling Coordinator at both Chapel Hill and Harbor Covenant churches in Gig Harbor, WA. Stacia received her Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Graphic Design at Pacific Lutheran University and has completed two years at Portland Seminary. She is currently training to be a Spiritual Director through the Listening with the Spirit program offered through St. Placid Priory Spirituality Center. She and her husband Tom, have six adult children and four grandchildren. In addition to playing with grandchildren, Stacia loves kayaking, camping, creative journaling, and deep friendships.