Essence 2023

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Justice

The work of diversity, equity, inclusion (belonging), and justice (DEIJ) is important in all the regions and geographic areas of SDI, as it reflects a  broad invitation into the SDI Community, regardless of religious or spiritual background, ethnicity, gender identity, nationality, and other affiliations.  We believe that when the culture of an organization is solidly built on valuing the differences and diversity of people, the organization reflects that culture. Spiritual companions/counselors/directors and all SDI members can choose to engage actively in behaviors that are welcoming of difference and show our directees and companions that they are valued, heard, and appreciated, regardless of and because of those differences. This both-and attitude is facilitated by reflecting on the intersection of DEIJ principles and the compassion-based work we do, as well as the desire to affirm, value, and celebrate the ways in which people with different identities and from different backgrounds enrich each other’s lives.

What to Expect

During the full DEIJ Day, you will have opportunities to:


Saturday, May 6

(Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice)

8:00 – 8:30 AM – Coffee & Exhibits

8:30 – 9:30 AM – New Contemplatives

9:30 – 10:00 AM – Coffee & Exhibits

10:00 AM – 12:00 PM – Keynote: DEIJ (Ayo Yetunde & Kelley Alexander)

12:00 – 1:30 PM – Lunch (On Own), Exhibit Hall Closes at 2:00 PM

2:00 – 4:30 PM – DEIJ Table Topics and Discussion

Time TBA – Post-Conference Transportation to Retreat Center

Dr. Pamela Ayo Yetunde

DEIJ Convener

Photo: Miriam Phields

Pamela Ayo Yetunde, M.A., J.D., Th.D., is a spiritual director, pastoral counselor, chaplain educator, consultant, advocate and artist.  She earned her spiritual direction certificate from Mercy Center in Burlingame, her M.A. in Culture and Spirituality from Holy Names University in Oakland, CA, her law degree from Indiana University, and her Doctor of Theology degree in pastoral counseling from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA.  Ayo is the author of Casting Indra’s Net: Fostering Spiritual Kinship and Community (2023) and other books, articles, and essays on spiritual care.  Some of her recent essays appear in Lion’s Roar and Buddhist Justice Reporter.  Her current creative project is Birdsong, a novella-film project about intercultural and interreligious spiritual care.  Ayo was the founding director of the Interreligious Chaplaincy Program at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.  She can be reached at

Dr. Kelley Alexander

DEIJ Convener

Photo: Miriam Phields

Kelley Alexander (she/her), M.S., Ph.D., is a conflict resolution specialist, ombudsperson, mediator, educator, life coach, trainer, consultant, writer, and co-founder/partner of Center of the Heart, a business dedicated to creating a wellness community that supports the restorative power of the human mind, body, and spirit. She earned her M.S. in Conflict Management from Kennesaw State University and her Ph.D. in Communication from Georgia State University. Over the past 20 years, she has consulted with organizations and coached individuals using evidence-based tools that manage change and transform lives and environments successfully. She recently accepted a co-director position with Be Present, a non-profit organization that created and teaches a transformative leadership model. Kelley is a Siddha Yoga and mindfulness practitioner and is passionate about the research and consulting she does in the areas of spirituality, diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging and social justice. Her current writing projects include a children’s book about bullying and self-love and a collection of writings about grief and loss. She can be reached at

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