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  • Writer's pictureRev. Barrett Owen

Furthering My Education

In 2017, I attended a continuing education conference to rejuvenate my soul. As luck (I’d argue the Holy Spirit) would have it, a conference on the Spirituality of the Enneagram was occurring at Sewanee University the same week we were out of town visiting family in Chattanooga. Intrigued, I attended the conference not realizing this experience would soon alter the course of my professional life as much as anything. 

The conference was hosted by the Institute for Conscious Being, which teaches the spiritual dimensions of the Enneagram as well as other key teachings around consciousness and spiritual practices. It’s led by Christian, clinical psychologist Dr. Joseph Howell. He studied for his master’s with Henri Nouwen at Princeton, received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Virginia, and has been a practicing Christian counselor for over 30 years. 


The conference was infused with deep, Christian language around soul, ego, essence, integration, forgiveness, virtues, sins, and spiritual gifts. The lectures felt like a balm for my soul, and I started consuming as much head knowledge as I could noticing it was also deepening my heart. 


Over the next four years, I completed the ICB’s Scholars and Master’s program where I took a deep dive into myself while learning how to teach Enneagram to groups. I finished this work in 2021 and have been implementing these teachings since. 


From the occasional sermon series to CrossTraining classes to staff development and retreats, the Enneagram has become a tool to help me help people further their faith journey. It has become such an integral part of my spiritual work, that I am excited to say that I am taking another step to pursue doctoral studies as I explore the theological and spiritual implications of the Enneagram in more detail. 


After a discussion with the Leadership Council and Personnel last year, I applied to Northwind Theological Seminary for the Doctor of Theology (ThD) degree to study with Dr. Thomas J. Oord. As of February, I was accepted and began my studies this month.


Northwind is an online, ecumenical seminary that seeks to train working pastors. It has been so successful, that last November it was approved for partnership with Kairos University, a Christian university in Sioux Falls, South Dakota with ties to American Baptists and United Methodists to offer accredited, doctoral degrees. Northwind’s ThD program is fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS).


This degree will be almost 100% independent learning as I read and research one-on-one with Dr. Oord. His passion is to infuse Christian, systematic theology with cross-disciplinary emphases from science, spirituality, and philosophy. It just so happens that he knows and studies the Enneagram and is a fellow Ego Type 3 like me. I believe there is good work to be explored by bringing these two disciplines into conversation with one another. 


To put it succinctly, I will research and write about the deeper, theological, and spiritual implications of the Enneagram and how it informs and impacts our spiritual growth. I covet your prayers as I begin this work. 


Lastly, it is important to me that you know two things: 1) I do not foresee this endeavor keeping me from performing my pastoral duties. 2) This degree is meant to deepen my work as the Senior Pastor of First Baptist. It is not a stepping stone to another career or position. I will utilize my research to equip and better enhance our community of faith “to become and help others become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.”

Rev. Barrett Owen | Senior Pastor

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