Contemplative | Activist | Writer | Theologian


Barbara A. Holmes is a spiritual teacher, activist, and scholar focused on African American spirituality, mysticism, cosmology and culture.  She is President Emerita of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities (2012-2016), and also served as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Memphis Theological Seminary (2005-2010). Before the call to ministry, Holmes worked as an early childhood educator, a professional actor (Equity, SAG, AFTRA), and a corporate lawyer in Georgia, Florida and Texas.  She was ordained in the Latter Rain Apostolic Holiness Church in Dallas, Texas. Today, she has privilege of call in the United Church of Christ and recognition of ministerial standing in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). In addition, Dr. Holmes has worked with homeless missions, HIV/AIDS support groups and international ministries in Kenya (the Presbyterian Church of East Africa) and Japan.


Dr. Holmes has earned the following degrees: a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and a minor in Theatre Arts from the University of Connecticut; a Master of Science in Education from Southern Connecticut University; a Master of Divinity degree from Columbia Theological Seminary; and a Doctor of Philosophy in Religion (Ethics) from Vanderbilt.  Also, she earned a law degree from Walter F. George School of Law, at Mercer University.

Among her publications are: Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church (Fortress Press, 2017 & 2004), Liberation and the Cosmos (Fortress Press, 2008), Race and the Cosmos: An Invitation to View the World Differently (Trinity Press Inter- national, 2002), and A Private Woman in Public Spaces: Barbara Jordan’s Speeches on Ethics, Public Religion, and Law (Trinity Press Inter-national, 2000). In addition to her books, Dr. Holmes has published numerous articles and is a nationally sought after speaker and lecturer.


She says, "My life is committed to the struggle for justice, the healing of the human spirit, and the art of relevant and radical creativity."

Living authentically with and for the community with great joy and even greater risk.

Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices in the Black Church

"If the model for contemplation is Eurocentric, then the sacred experiences of indigenous people and their progeny will never fit the mold. But if contemplation is defined as an accessible and vibrant response to life and to a God who unleashes life toward its most diverse potentials, then practices that turn the human spirit inward may or may not be solitary or silent."  ~ Barbara Holmes

An interconnected universe that invites and requires communal contemplation

"We respond to a deeply interdependent and responsive universe through shared experiences. This means that despite signs of postmodern fragmentation and the rise of radical individualism, we cannot carve out shared destinies in isolation. We are born not only into a wondrous and mysterious life space but also into communities of interpersonal reliance. These communities of care and crisis lend meaning and congruence to our lives and help to shape our collective stories. These stories and learned practices disclose the pitfalls and potential for human fulfillment, but more importantly, they describe a cosmos that is interwoven with mystery."

-- Barbara A. Holmes, Joy Unspeakable ​

Race and the Cosmos: An Invitation to View the World Differently

"In the beginning there is darkness. It is the womb out of which we are born. Darkness may be the blessed dimming of ego-driven striving, a destination and condition of safety and repose. In this state of trusting refuge, the light of divine revelation, which pierces but does not castigate the darkness, may finally be seen. This is a mothering darkness that nurses its offspring."

~ Barbara A. Holmes


Race and the Cosmos, revised and updated. Now available from:

The Center for Contemplation

and Action. Click here to order.

Race & the Cosmos new cover

This is precisely the time that artists go to work - not when everything is fine, but in times of dread.

Toni Morrison

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