“Spiritual Direction”?

For many Christians, the concept of ‘spiritual direction’ may mean different things and for most it is a new concept. However as I move between Pastoral Counselling and venture into the role of Spiritual Director, I believe that ‘spiritual direction’ is “the skill of Christian listening being exercised in an atmosphere of a person-to-person confidential relationship. What is Christian Spiritual Direction? - Here are a few thoughts on the matter: Spiritual direction in the Anglican Tradition is somewhat like the Anglican Church itself — a combination of many paths, which have been handed down over the centuries. Traditionally the "Anglo Catholic" segment of the Anglican Church has always had a form of spiritual direction. There are still some directors from that old tradition which held that the director was also one's confessor. Just as direction is becoming more sought out in other traditions, we too are experiencing more people looking for directors and so now there are both Evangelical and "Anglo Catholic" seekers. Spiritual directors here in Ontario are trained in Franciscan, Benedictine, and Ignatian traditions, and the Anglican way is to combine these traditions and others, as it seems necessary for a directee's needs. Certainly directors in the Anglican Church are aware of a special attachment on the part of some Anglican directees to the Prayer Book and the spirituality of the daily offices. (Dana Fisher, Professor at Trinity College, Toronto, Ontario, Canada) There are varied historical streams of influence on spiritual direction in the Anglican tradition. First there is the recognition that parish clergy are entrusted with the “cure of souls” or pastoral care. Secondly, there is the practice of sacramental confession. Thirdly, Ignatian spirituality has shaped the practice of many Anglicans over the years. Today, the majority of directors are probably women. The marks of a director are love, kindliness and a real compassion. The language used is one of healing and growth rather than that of the law court with its judgment, condemnation, and punishment. The pastoral roots of the Anglican tradition mean that its practitioners are counsellors, confessors, and physicians of the soul, not judges. There is warmth and a lightness of touch. (Canon Peter W. Ball, UK) Spiritual direction is the process of helping every believer realize her or his own soul freedom and to help everyone accept the responsibility of developing a relationship to God through Jesus Christ while in community. Some spiritual guidance practices that strengthen that relationship include spoken and extemporaneous prayer in formal and informal worship; participation in challenging learning communities; dialogue on scripture, faith practice, and mission; personal study and interpretation of scripture; silence, meditation and use of the labyrinth in some associated churches. (Rev. Catherine Fransson, Seattle First Baptist Church, American Baptist)

Spiritual direction is, in reality, nothing more than a way of leading us to see and obey the real Director — the Holy Spirit hidden in the depths of our soul. (Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, USA) Who is a ‘Spiritual Director’? - A ‘Spiritual Director’ is a trained to be a knowledgeable leader. The individual will be another person, listening in concert with the Holy Spirit to story of his or her life. As lay ministers who are involved need to understand how to move into the role with ease. Why use the term ‘Spiritual Director’? Jeffrey S. Gaines, Mdiv, former SDI Executive Director says this: I would say that "director" really is a misnomer, because God is the Director and I am simply one who companions. There is a tradition of using the word "director", and I don't see that being changed, but truly God is the Director, and the spiritual director simply assists the seeker in uncovering and discovering the direction of God in that person's life. This enables the directee to see, claim, receive, own, and reverence God's voice, God's nudging, and God's acting, in such a way that it elicits a natural and genuine response.” Personally I prefer to use the term ‘spiritual mentor’. What does God’s word say? In scripture we are told to pray for guidance and the following readings support the role of ‘director’ and ‘directee’ as described by Jeffrey S. Gaines: · · · · · · · Psalm 25:4-7 Acts 8:26-37 1 Samuel 23:1-5 Psalm 48:1-14 Jeremiah 29:11-13 Genesis 19:31-36 Psalm 16:7-8 Christian who is one who companions the individual’s in ministry you will

As in days gone by, Christians today seek to know God’s will. The Novice in the monastery may seek guidance from the Abbot or more senior brother [or sister]. Younger clergy will seek the counsel of the more mature clergyman and an example of this is found in the relationship between John Calvin and John Knox. Calvin mentored and guided Knox. Having said all that it is important to understand that ‘spiritual direction’ is not a form of “pastoral counselling’, nor is it to be seen as psychotherapy. While they may seem to be similar there are some important distinctions. When one has a ‘spiritual direction’ meeting there will be in the midst a silent symbol of the presence of the Holy Spirit. It can be in the form of a cross, a bowl of blessed water, a plant, an open bible or a candle. Whichever is used it will be understood that it represents the Divine. Also different from pastoral counselling, ‘spiritual direction’ happens in an atmosphere of prayer and fervent closeness. As a Pastoral Counsellor I become or move into spiritual direction when I address both the spiritual and emotional well being of the individual. If you wish to have an understanding about God’s will and your purpose then I urge you to consider “Spiritual Direction” for the journey. You will be filled with discernment and enjoy inner peace and calm.

I encourage to you to learn more from the following resources: Practice of Spiritual Direction by William A. Barry; Exploring Spiritual Direction by Alan W. Jones; Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction and the website http://www.sdiworld.org

Chaplain R. Cecilia Askew Spiritual Director/Pastoral Counsellor copyright@2005: Revised 2009

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