The Contemplative Light Podcast, Episode 35: Interview With Rev. Stuart Higginbotham On Integrating Contemplation In A Parish Community

At Grace Episcopal Church, in Gainesville, Georgia, Fr. Stuart serves as rector of the 1,000 member parish and pre-school, working with the vestry, ministry committees, and staff colleagues in prayer, discernment, worship, and community life. He began his cure on January 6, 2014, the Feast of the Epiphany. He loves to draw on the insights of the entire team, wondering together what invitations the Spirit is offering within the community.

Within the broader ministry team, Fr. Stuart has a keen interest in spiritual formation and prayer, membership and newcomers, and the worship and liturgical life of the community. He grounds his ministry at Grace in the Christian contemplative lineage.  In August 2017, he was part of the initial gathering of The New Contemplatives Exchange, a global network of young contemplative scholars and practitioners convened by Thomas Keating (Contemplative Outreach), Richard Rohr (The Center for Action and Contemplation), Tilden Edwards (The Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation), and Laurence Freeman (The World Community for Christian Meditation) at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado.  Click HERE to explore a short documentary on our time together at Snowmass, put together by Leonardo Correa, with the World Community for Christian Meditation.

Fr. Stuart’s doctoral thesis, “The Practice of Christian Mindfulness as an Imaginative Challenge in Parish Ministry,” describes Grace’s work over the past few years to reorient its practice of discipleship and ministry away from the “program-maintenance model” toward a contemplative posture of spiritual imagination, discernment, transfigured awareness, and desire. He is particularly drawn to exploring the ways the Christian contemplative tradition can shape, nurture, and challenge the institutional church.

Fr. Stuart studied in the pre-med program at Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas (B.S. Biology, summa cum laude, 2001) and did his initial theological studies at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia (M. Div, honors in spiritual formation, 2005). He also studied at the School of Theology at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee (Diploma in Anglican Studies, 2008). He received his Doctor of Ministry degree from Sewanee as well (May 2017). He has also worked and studied for years with the Shalem Institute of Spiritual Formation (Washington, DC) and now, also, with the World Community for Christian Meditation.

His wife, Lisa, is a middle school teacher and is the grounding presence for their family.  Both Stuart and Lisa grew up in the Mississippi Delta in Southeast Arkansas (30 minutes apart), deep in farm country, just over the bridge from Greenville, Mississippi, spending long summer days with large families, fried catfish, and sweet tea. They met while studying at Lyon College, where Lisa first thought Stuart was a British foreign exchange student (until he spoke). They have one daughter, Evelyn Clare, who loves to read, draw, and tell jokes and stories. As a family, they love having as simple a life as possible: cooking, reading, playing games, watching movies, and spending time with family and friends.