Visit the Abbey of the Arts online retreat platform to access your programs:

Leadership and Wisdom Council

The Abbey was founded by Christine Valters Paintner who leads as the online Abbess. She is joined by  her husband John who serves as the Prior. The Wisdom Council formed when we realized that we needed some more formal structures of support for the work we do. We invited several trusted and long-time contributors to our community to join us. Each has a strong kinship with the monk and artist path. We call on them for wisdom when creating new programs, considering new ideas, or navigating challenges. They offer their time and guidance to us and so are also in service to the wider community. Many of the members also help facilitate or teach portions of our programs. We are so grateful to have this vibrant gathering of both spiritual and practical support for the contemplative and creative programs we offer. In addition, several of the members are available for spiritual direction via Skype, Zoom, phone, or email. Please contact them directly to inquire about fees, availability, and whether they might be a kindred spirit to support your journey.

Abbess and Prior

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Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

Christine Valters Paintner is the online Abbess and director of, a virtual monastery exploring contemplative practice, creative expression, and ways to nourish an earth-cherishing consciousness. She is a spiritual director, teacher, pilgrimage guide, Benedictine oblate, and author of numerous books on spirituality and the arts. Her deepest belief is that the earth is the original monastery–a wisdom guide and mentor in living a soulful and vibrant life. Visit the “About Christine” page for more information.

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John Valters Paintner, MTS

John Valters Paintner studied education and earned a teaching certificate in his home state of California.  John later went on to earn a Masters in Theological Studies at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley.  After working in parish ministry for several years, John returned to the classroom, teaching high school religion for twelve years. He now works as Prior of the Abbey of the Arts alongside his wife of twenty years, Abbess Christine. Visit the “About John” page for more information.

Wisdom Council


Aisling Richmond

Aisling Richmond is a Somatic Therapist and transformative guide who is deeply inspired by nature and the wisdom of the soul. Aisling is currently undertaking a PhD in Psychology and Transformative Leadership to work with cultural change. She shares a home with her partner in the rugged wildness of Donegal, North West Ireland. Aisling works as a therapist, supporting people to resolve trauma and life challenges through body-psyche-soul wisdom. She also mentors people in finding their deep soul purpose, and teaches a rich range of transformative programs online.  Aisling is passionate about soul centred living, where nature and the feminine are deeply valued. Having worked collaboratively with many organisations including Amnesty International, Aisling has also been a guest lecturer with both Galway and Limerick Universities. 

Aisling is available for somatic therapy, for mentoring sessions, and for group programs online. Feel welcome to contact her to inquire.

Visit Aisling’s website here>>

Watch Christine’s interview with Aisling here>>

Amber Andreasen

Amber Andreasen is a contemplative, ever desiring to deepen into and dance the rhythms of monk and artist. She has trained as a spiritual director, receiving her M.A. in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care from The Institute of Spiritual Formation at Talbot School of Theology. She has her B.S. and M.S. in Kinesiology and a Ph.D. in Holistic Nutrition. She has also done training in BioSpiritual Focusing as a holistic approach to spiritual growth. Wherever she finds herself, she desires to nurture a compassionate space where others can be listened, beheld and loved into fuller being by the Beloved. She is continually awed by the body as sacred storyholder and storyteller and by dance and movement as conduits of deep interior silence, stillness and joy.  Her heart beats loudly for the weaving together of creativity and spirituality in the discovering of what it means to live an embodied, fully human life in all its mystery and wonder.
Amber is available for both individual and group spiritual direction by Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, phone, and email (and also in person for those living in Orange County, California). Email her to inquire.

Read Amber’s guest post for the Abbey here>>

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Betsey Beckman, MM

Betsey Beckman, MM is nationally acclaimed as a spirited dancer, storyteller, teacher of SpiritPlay and dancing Spiritual Director. With her extensive repertory of sacred storydances, she is regularly featured as artist/presenter at national conventions as well as local churches. She earned her Masters in Ministry degree from Seattle University, her certificate in Movement Therapy from the Institute for Transformational Movement, and is a certified InterPlay leader. As dancer, choreographer, author, mother, wife, teacher and spiritual director, she is passionate about living life fully and fostering creativity in all those with whom she shares life and ministry. Betsey’s publications include books (she is co-author of Awakening the Creative Spirit: Bringing the Expressive Arts to Spiritual Direction), recordings – including producing the Abbey of the Arts CD collections, and The Dancing Word series of DVDs on embodied prayer, many of which companion the Abbey CDs. She offers the gift of playful improvisation whenever possible.

Visit Betsey’s website here>>

Read Betsey’s guest post for the Abbey here>>


Carmen Acevedo Butcher, PhD

Carmen Acevedo Butcher is an award-winning translator, poet, and workshop leader. She has been interviewed on the BBC’s Compass, NPR’s Morning Edition, and Dante’s Old South, and many others found on her linktree. Her Cloud of Unknowing translation received a 46th Georgia Author of the Year Award, and Martin Laird calls her translation of Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence “the new standard.” Carmen holds degrees in Medieval Studies from the University of Georgia, was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of London, and teaches in the College Writing Programs at the University of California, Berkeley. She is an Affiliate Faculty member at the Center for Action and Contemplation and has contributed teaching to the CAC’s Essentials of Engaged Contemplation course. Carmen lives in the Bay Area, and is working on a chapbook of poetry. Visit Carmen’s website here and her YouTube channel here.

Cassidhe Hart

Cassidhe Hart, MDiv

Cassidhe Hart, MDiv., wrote her first poem as a toddler with her mother’s help, dictating words onto a scrap of construction paper. She’s been writing ever since. As a poet and liturgist, she writes at the intersection of faith, ecology, community, and ritual to explore the ways we tell stories about our inner and outer worlds. She comes from a long line of settler-colonists and is committed to listening to systematically oppressed voices and to growing an anti-racist, decolonizing ethic in all her work. She has been commissioned to write prayers, liturgies, and songs for various worship and retreat contexts. In all her writing and facilitating, she seeks to cultivate a tender and radical attention to God’s presence among us. Her list of favorite things includes sunlight through tree leaves, children’s novels, jasmine tea, and her nephew’s drawings of rainbow narwhals. 

You can visit her website here:

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Claudia Love Mair, MFA

Claudia Love Mair, MFA is a writer, artist, and Ringmistress of the Beautiful Soul Circus, a private Facebook group for creatives, queers, and tender souls. She’s an Inspirationalista who, when she’s not creating something herself, helps other creatives tap into their deepest intuition and longings through writing and painting. Claudia is the author of the God Alone is Enough, the critically acclaimed novel, Zora and Nicky, and her memoir, Don’t You Fall Now. She is a Certified Intuitive Painting and Expressive Arts Facilitator and the Coordinator for the Kentucky Black Writers Collaborative. Claudia lives in Lexington, with two of her adult children, and three cats, including one who thinks he’s a dog.

Dena Ross Jennings

Dena Jennings, D.O.

Dena Jennings, D.O. is a luthier, musician, writer, Virginia Master Naturalist, and an Internal Medicine physician with certification in Ayurvedic practice. In addition to over 30 years of  medical practice, she completed a 4-year apprenticeship with a sculptor and luthier in Ontario, Canada where she learned to design and built the gourd instruments of cultures around the world. In 2013 Dr. Jennings married her best friend Donald Jennings and moved to their organic herb farm and wildlife preserve in Nasons, VA which they lovingly call the Farmashramonastery. There, she practices medicine and counselling, hosts contemplative retreats, hikes, and meditation, and raises angora rabbits. 

In the larger community, she conducts conflict transformation workshops including one for artistic ambassadors through the US State Department in Washington, DC. She has developed accredited curricula of meditation for racial justice, and for cultural sensitivity in artistic performance. In 2019, she was appointed to the Virginia Commission for the Arts where she serves as the chairperson.

Since 1996, Dr. Jennings has been the Executive Director and founder of Imani Works, a human rights advocacy group that enjoys consultative status with the United Nations Department of Social and Economic Affairs. Through Imani Works, she provides evaluations for asylum seekers. You can reach her for bookings, consultations, and counselling by visiting ImaniWorks online.


D.G. Hollums

D.G. Hollums, is clergy in The United Methodist Church, born and raised in north west Texas and currently lives in Austin, TX. He is a geek, foodie, contemplative photographer, contemplative carver, daddy, husband, self-described “extroverted contemplative”, and considers every person he meets to be someone he can’t wait to get to know. He has been an associate pastor, lead pastor, church planter, director of online communications for the global United Methodist church, as well as worked for Tesla Inc. and Apple Inc.

D.G. is currently developing a new non-profit called The Order of the Trinity that will be a local and online community who promote a simple rule of life based around our 5 senses for a neo-friar-like people who love out their lives through art, creativity, and rhythms to make a difference in their communities.

Read DG’s guest post for the Abbey here>>

(He also wrote a guest post about contemplative photography here)>>


Deirdre Ní Chinnéide

Deirdre Ní Chinnéide is trained as a psychotherapist / spiritual director and workshop facilitator. She has worked all over Ireland, the U.S.A. and Europe including Bosnia and Kosovo. The Aran Islands with its unique history, culture and natural beauty provides a special setting for the retreat work, and was the place of inspiration for Celtic Passage, a journey of the heart which she leads through music, reflection and prayer. Deirdre divides her time between the Aran Islands and the mainland offering retreats, workshops and performances of spiritual music and also works part time with Partners in Faith, a Catholic adult faith education programme working in marginalised areas in Ireland.

Deirdre has also co-authored the book  Journey to the Well: Connecting to Celtic Ways and Wisdom. Visit Dierdre’s website here.


Jamie Marich, PhD

Jamie Marich, Ph.D., LPCC-S, REAT, RYT-500, RMT travels internationally speaking on topics related to EMDR therapy, trauma, addiction, expressive arts, LGBTQ issues, spirituality and mindfulness while maintaining a private practice in her home base of Northeast Ohio. Jamie is also the developer of the Dancing Mindfulness expressive arts practice. Jamie is the author of several books including Dancing Mindfulness: A Creative Path to Healing and Transformation (2015, with foreword by Christine Valters Paintner) and Process Not Perfection: Expressive Arts Solutions for Trauma Recovery released in 2019, heavily influenced by the growth she has experienced through her study with Abbey of the Arts! Now primarily a North Atlantic Book author, she has recently released Trauma and the 12 Steps: An Inclusive Guide to Recovery (2020), Transforming Trauma with Jiu-Jitsu (2022), and Dissociation Made Simple: A Stigma-Free Guide to Embracing Your Dissociative Mind and Navigating Life (2023). Visit Jamie’s website here.

Read Jamie’s guest post for the Abbey here>>

Jamie is available for spiritual direction, coaching/consultation, or expressive arts therapy in person or via Skype. Contact her to inquire>>


Jo-ed Tome

Jo-ed Tome is a Filipino spiritual director, transpersonal psychology researcher, and self-proclaimed monk in the world. He practices and promotes contemplative living through his social media platform, Millennial Tito* Monk. Jo-ed encourages others, especially the youth, to a mindful and compassionate exploration of various spiritual practices that respond to their unique contexts. He strongly believes that the Sacred is within each person as much as It is everywhere and in everything.
Among other practices, Jo-ed leads contemplative climb in mountains, soulful reading of books and other reading materials, and soulful conversations. He also gives retreats and recollections to various groups to help them grapple with questions about life, become witnesses to the dynamic presence of the Sacred in their lives, and connect deeply with their inner selves.
Jo-ed earned his MSc in Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology from Alef Trust in partnership with Liverpool John Moores University. He has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Ateneo de Naga University.
Jo-ed is available for spiritual direction. Contact him to inquire>>  You may also visit Millennial Tito Monk’s website and Facebook Page.
* “Tito” is Filipino for “Uncle”

Kayce Stevens Hughlett

Kayce Stevens Hughlett, MA LMHC is a soulful and spirited woman. In her roles as ponderer extraordinaire, spiritual director, life muse, author, creative coach, and speaker, she invites us to playfully and fearlessly cross the thresholds toward authentic living. A strong proponent of compassionate care in the world, Kayce’s live and online work focuses on the principle that we must live it to give it.

Kayce’s official titles include: Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Spiritual Director, Life Coach, Speaker/Facilitator, and co-creator of SoulStrolling® ~ a movement for mindfulness in motion, at home or abroad. She is the author of three books, including her body-mind-spirit travel memoir, SoulStroller: experiencing the weight, whispers, & wings of the world.  Kayce is a member of Abbey of the Arts Wisdom Council and co-leader of Awakening the Creative Spirit.

Visit Kayce’s website here>>

Read Kayce’s guest post for the Abbey here>>

Kayce is available for coaching/spiritual direction by Skype, phone, and email (and also in person for those living near Seattle, WA). Contact her to inquire>>


Melinda Thomas

Melinda Thomas, E-RYT 500 is the Program Coordinator for Abbey of the Arts providing program and logistical support, forum facilitation, and yoga. She also offer prayers and other content contributions to the Prayer Cycles and retreats. Melinda is an experienced yoga teacher and has been studying and practicing yoga for more than twenty-five years. In each of her classes and workshops Melinda weaves spiritual and contemplative themes into accessible, alignment based movement practice. Her aim is to honor the spiritual foundation of yoga in conversation with monastic and contemplative wisdom that offers participants a safe, inclusive, and integrated experience. Melinda is a writer and the author of Sacred Balance: Aligning Body and Spirit Through Yoga and the Benedictine Way. She lives in North Carolina with her son and their cat. She writes The Journal of Elements and Seasons on Substack. Visit her website.

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Melissa Layer

Melissa Layer, MA, LMHC honors the unfolding journeys of our wild and precious lives as compelling invitations for creative, integrative meaning-making in BodyMindSpirit.  Her sacred calling and formal training as a psychospiritual therapist, hospice grief counselor, and spiritual director have taught her about the potency of thin places in thresholds and dark nights of the soul.  Cultivating curiosity, Melissa offers expressive exploration of the Great Mystery through journaling, collaging, poem-making, dreamwork, visio and lectio divina, creation of rituals and altars, and engaged encounters with nature.  Like the honeybee for which she is named, she claims her role as “a bee of the invisible…passionately plundering the honey of the visible in order to gather it in the great golden hive of the invisible” (Rilke).  Melissa offers a compassionate, attuned presence and deep listening with the ear of her heart from the Pacific Northwest in Washington, where the Salish sea meets the evergreen forest.

Visit Melissa’s website here>>

Read Melissa’s guest post for the Abbey here>>

Melissa is available for spiritual companioning through online platforms, phone and written correspondence. Contact her to inquire >>


Michael Moore

Michael Moore is a retired USAF Chaplain and a retired pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA) who currently lives in Mobile, Alabama with his wife and partner in life and ministry, Denise. His undergraduate degree is in Business Administration (University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire) and he earned his Master of Divinity degree from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities (Saint Paul, MN). He served two small, yoked Presbyterian Churches in rural Fergus Falls, MN for three years before going on Active Duty with the USAF for 21 years. Following his retirement from the Air Force, he has served churches in Florida, Colorado, Georgia, and Alabama. He has a Certificate in Christian Spiritual Formation from Columbia Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA.

A writer and photographer, you can find him blogging at Pastor Michael Moore’s Blog or at Godspace as a member of that community.

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Polly Paton-Brown

Polly Paton-Brown MA UKCP worked for many years as a psychotherapist and trainer in the field of trauma. More recently, Polly’s focus has been on helping people explore their spirituality and prayer,  using creativity and connection with nature. Polly has a particular passion for creating healing dolls as a portal to transformation.

Always a lover of nature, horses and creativity Polly now integrates all of these into her practice. She has trained in Nature Based Practice and Eco-pychology, Environmental Arts, Expressive Arts and Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy. She is a licenced facilitator of Chakradance,  The Art of Allowing , Creative Awakenings and the  Wild Soul Woman Programme.

A member of the Iona Community, Polly was coordinator of their healing ministry for 11 years and when in that role ran regular retreats on the Isle of Iona. She is also a Sister of Belle Coeur.  With roots in the contemplative and monastic traditions, Polly also draws wisdom from other spiritual paths such as Druidry and Sufism. She is passionate to help those wounded by the institutional church restore their image of God and themselves.

Visit Polly’s website here>>

Read Polly’s guest post for the Abbey here>>

Polly is available for spiritual accompaniment and mentoring in person or by Skype. Contact her to inquire>>

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Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, MA is a Psalmist, spiritual director and freelance musician. He enjoys all manner of projects in theology and the arts. Through his company,, he is publishing imaginative and adventurous songs for the ever-evolving church. Raised in the Midwestern United States, he is a husband to Trish and a dad to Sam. Faves: discovery, music, Star Wars, bosc pears, blue, laughter, naps.

Read Richard’s guest post for the Abbey here>>

Simon de Voil

Simon de Voil

Reverend Simon Ruth de Voil is an interfaith-interspiritual minister, sacred musician, spiritual counsellor, and chaplain.

His sacred work—both musical and interpersonal—explores themes of the inner landscape of the soul, the enchantment of the natural world, and the healing power of spiritual practice. As a chaplain and counsellor, Simon helps individuals and groups connect sacred presence with everyday life. Simon is also a transgender activist and a luthier in training.

Visit Simon’s website here>>

Read his Monk in the World guest post here>>

Te Martin

Te Martin

Theresa “Te” Martin (they/them), has been studying and leading community singing since 2017. They were born on Ramaytush Ohlone land in san francisco and have been shaped by Ocean, Redwoods, circus arts, and theater games. Lately, some of the questions they have been asking are: “How can I offer song + ritual arts that are in service to healing?” and, “What are the sounds and stories of my Celtic ancestors?” Te holds a B.A. in Theology from St. Louis University and lives at the cross-section of spiritual practice, earth-connection, social justice, and artistic expression. Check out their EP, “Water & Bones”, and music video. Visit Te’s Patreon Page.

Therese Taylor-Stinson

Therese Taylor-Stinson

Therese Taylor-Stinson is a retired U.S. Federal Senior Program Analyst, formerly an expert in Federal Regulatory Activity, and she remains on the roster of the U.S. Federal Interagency Shared Neutrals Program as a lead mediator for Equal Employment Opportunity disputes. Therese is also a seasoned spiritual director, an award-winning author-editor, and an ordained deacon and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and served as Moderator for National Capital Presbytery 2014 through 2017. Therese, the organizer, won an award in 2018 as a Collaborative Bridge-Builder presented by Grace and Race, Inc., an Indie Author Legacy Award for her edited work Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Stories of Contemplation and Justice, and a second author award for her most recent authorship Walking the Way of Harriet Tubman: Public Mystic and Freedom Fighter. Therese is also the co-founder and organizer of the Racial Awareness Festival based in Washington DC, which recently closed after its sixth annual event and seventh organizing year. Therese is the Founding Managing Member/President of the Spiritual Directors of Color Network, Ltd., now incorporated 10 years after 6 years of organizing. In addition to the above, she is a certified pastoral caregiver and an Emotional Emancipation Circle Facilitator, while remaining on the roster as a lead mediator for Equal Employment Opportunity. Therese is married to Bernard Stinson. They have a daughter and two granddaughters.

She currently has one space for a BILPOC directee to work together via Zoom. Contact her to inquire.


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Garrett La Valley

Garrett La Valley is our website designer and digital consultant. His company OdinCat Media designed our site and provides ongoing updates and security. In his personal life, Garrett is an avid student of meditation, yoga and spiritual traditions. He has been studying and practicing yoga since the age of 15.