Holly C. Benzenhafer

Ph.D. Student in Practical Theology, Concentration: Spirituality

  • Title Ph.D. Student in Practical Theology, Concentration: Spirituality

Areas of Interest:

Spirituality, Dream Studies, Pilgrimage, Medieval Female Mysticism, Celtic Christian Spirituality, Intentional Community, Sabbath Practices

Research Focus:

Spirituality and Spiritual Practices across traditions including: dream studies, pilgrimage, medieval female mysticism, Celtic Christian spirituality and monasticism, intentional community, Sabbath practices, spiritual autobiography and life writing, spiritual direction, feminist/womanist spirituality, hospitality, and forms of contemplative and prayer practices. Focusing on adult formation and practice, these areas of concentration inform my research in developing pedagogies of transformative learning, theological reflection, and community building within higher education, faith communities, and daily lived experience.


Holly Benzenhafer is an ordained Baptist minister affiliated with Alliance of Baptists and a spiritual director trained through Haden Institute. She completed the MDiv degree with Spirituality concentration (magna cum laude) at Boston University School of Theology (STH) along with certification in Religion and Conflict Transformation through Boston Theological Institute. Her contextual education for this degree was serving as a volunteer abbey housekeeper with the Iona Community on the Holy Isle of Iona, Scotland, in 2007. Prior to moving to Boston, Holly completed a MS graduate degree in Sociology and BS with honors in Psychology with Religious Education minor at Mississippi College and worked as a sociology professor for over a decade, specializing in family, social problems, deviant behavior, and sociology of religion. She also served as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Mississippi’s moderator for two terms with an emphasis on building community and identity during a time of denominational crisis and formation.

A practicing Contemplative in the Christian tradition since 1997, Holly’s interests focus on bringing both traditional spiritual practices and the dailiness of lived experience as sacred practice into spiritual and theological conversation in the theological academy. Her dissertation research seeks to address this focus through the lived experience of transformative dreaming by bringing dream studies and Christian spirituality studies to bear on the spiritual practice of dream sharing.

A retreat leader, poet, and labyrinth facilitator, Holly delights in the artistic and aesthetic creativity of nature and human expression. She is an avid photographer and a juried hand weaving Fellow in the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi. From her time on Iona, Holly has also developed a form of guided intoning prayer and now mentors a group which meets monthly at STH with facilitators she trained. She is a chapter members at BU’s Marsh Chapel where she periodically joins in worship leadership and the healing ministry. Along with cats, Serena, Samhain, and Moonshine, she regularly welcomes STHers into her home for meals (or weekends!), and claims the practice of Presence with the understanding that the very best meetings are those with the intention to discuss nothing in particular.

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