Tue07222014

BLSN infuses business leaders with spirituality

The long oval table in the library is set as for a board meeting.

In the center, however, are some items you'd never find in a corporate boardroom. Four white pillar candles are arranged in a square. Beside them is a prayer bowl nestled in a red-and-turquoise cushion.

The group meeting here is called a Leadership Formation Group (LFG). It operates within the Business Leadership Spirituality Network, (BLSN). The monthly meeting brings together a group of 10-12 executives to discuss business and workplace issues in a spiritual context.

Rose Camp, 48, executive VP of finance and operations at her company, was a member of the first LFG, which has been meeting since fall 2000.

"I love the combination of integrating business and spirituality," Camp said.

The BLSN grew out of the work of Andre Delbecq, who heads the Business and Spirituality Program at Santa Clara University, and John Huntington, a retired CEO who became an Episcopal priest and found a vocation serving business leaders like himself. Later the Rev. Dr. Jim Thomas, 30 years a psychologist/management consultant and now a priest, took over BLSN leadership.

The BLSN, headquartered at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, Mountain View, has three LFGs so far, with the hope of expanding much farther. Its goal is to infuse spirituality at the highest levels of business.

The leader, Mary Jo Alderson, lights the candles and opens the meeting with a prayer. Then she uses an ancient spiritual technique called "lectio divina" for the group to meditate on a sacred text. She reads aloud a paraphrase of Psalm 40 three times, very slowly, with long pauses between readings. Group members reflect on what the reading meant to them.

Only after this preparation does the discussion start. Alderson takes the issues one at a time, facilitating, reflecting and drawing out threads and possible solutions for the problem. Everything said in the room is confidential.

Alderson, 54, directs the Spiritual Center at Valley Presbyterian Church in Portola Valley. She has a business background in accounting. She thinks the time is ripe for this kind of group.

The BLSN asks for donations from participants as a percentage of their income. As it grows, it hopes to train more and more LFG facilitators and provide online networking services.

For more information about the BLSN, call Susan Slakey at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, 967-4724.

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