Summer Cushman

On a camping trip in 2015, Summer Cushman had the idea, which she dismissed almost immediately as completely unrealistic, that she should start a church.

Summer graduated from ESR in 2010 with a spirituality emphasis. She was led to attend seminary by her own spiritual seeking rather than from a concrete vocational aspiration. While at ESR, Summer says faculty patiently nurtured her and gave her space to work through her own process. Through her supervised ministry, she gained experience designing and facilitating retreats and other group activities.

It wasn’t until her final year of study at ESR that Summer discovered her interest in yoga philosophy. She has since been certified as a yoga teacher and yoga therapist. Through yoga she began to encounter and offer pastoral care to people who were drawn to spirituality and alienated from organized religion. Some of these seekers have since returned to active participation in a church while others have followed their own spiritual paths.

To explore her leading to found a church, Summer joined the pilot cohort of ESR’s Entrepreneurial Ministry Certificate program. In 2019 she launched the Yoga Church, “A gathering of spiritual seekers in search of authentic and practical ways to connect with Divine Mystery.” She offers the Yoga Church Sunday Sermon via a free newsletter and 90-minute online gatherings each week. People also have the option of joining the Yoga Church Community Hub to participate in yoga classes, study groups, community forums, and more. Summer’s experience offering online classes made moving all aspects of the Yoga Church online a natural response to the pandemic, though without being forced to do so she says she isn’t sure that she would have had the imagination needed or that people would have been willing to stick with it through the experimentation that was needed to learn what would work. She has learned a great deal about nurturing an authentic online community and cannot imagine going back to completely in-person gatherings that would exclude so many of those who have been able to connect with the Yoga Church.