A GUIDE TO SPIRITUAL DIRECTION ACROSS THE EASTERN BAPTIST ASSOCIATION
What is Spiritual Direction?
Spiritual Direction is a particular practice of one to one accompaniment, with a long history within the Christian tradition. The term Spiritual Direction itself can sometimes be misleading, as it is not an especially directive practice, and some people prefer to use the term Spiritual Accompaniment. A Spiritual Director provides a non-judgmental, listening space for the directee to explore their spiritual life, which can include discussing their experience of prayer, their image of God, their identity in Christ and how their spirituality is expressed in their everyday life. Although those in vocational ministry are often encouraged to have a Spiritual Director, Spiritual Direction is for anyone who would like support in reflecting on and deepening their relationship with God. It is important to note that Spiritual Direction is not a form of counselling. Whilst Spiritual Direction can certainly be sought alongside medical and therapeutic support for mental health, it is not a replacement for it.
Who can be a Spiritual Director?
Spiritual Directors can come from a range of Christian traditions, from Catholic to Free Church and everything in-between. Whilst anyone can call themselves a Spiritual Director, those whose names are on official lists will usually have completed a course in Spiritual Direction over one or two years or a series of intensive residentials. Courses in Spiritual Direction tend to be very experiential, teaching the core skills of Spiritual Direction, as well as encouraging each potential Director to journey deeply with God and in their own inner life. We would always recommend finding a Spiritual Director who has completed this type of training and is in some form of group or individual supervision.
How to find a Spiritual Director
Ecumenical lists are often held for an Anglican Diocesan area by a small group who oversee Spiritual Direction. Areas tend to have Co-ordinators who prayerfully help people find a suitable Spiritual Director and we have listed contacts on the next page. Before approaching a Co-ordinator it is worth considering what you are looking for. Do you have any preference for the person you would like to see, e.g. would you like to see someone who is ordained or not, someone in the same denomination or tradition as you or someone from a different or particular tradition, would you prefer a man or a woman? You also need to consider whether you have the capacity to pay a Director or would you need it to be free? Some Directors are able to offer their ministry for free, others may have a fee or ask for a donation to the wider ministry they are involved in. It is good to remember that Spiritual Directors will be funding their own on-going learning, spiritual development, Spiritual Direction and Supervision to ensure they are able to offer Direction from a healthy, mature and centred place. Spiritual Directors may use their own home, or a room in a church or another building and this may incur a cost for them too. Some Directors may also offer the option of meeting via video calls with those who live at a distance.
Meeting with a Spiritual Director
Whilst every Spiritual Director is different, it is good practice for a Director to arrange an initial meeting with you and to then give time for you both to discern if it is right to journey together. If you feel a Director is not right for you, you are free to let them know you do not want to pursue meeting with them. They will greatly appreciate you letting them know rather than not getting in contact at all. Spiritual Direction is something you both invest time and energy into so it is good to consider it prayerfully before you commit to seeing a particular person. Equally, a Spiritual Director may feel that they are not the right person for you and will encourage you to continue your search by returning to the Co-ordinator. You can, of course, approach someone directly, but in this case it is even more important to consider prayerfully whether to pursue it further. Once in Direction, it is good to revisit your relationship with your Director from time to time, and they may have a review process in place to help you do that. Some Spiritual Direction relationships are for a season, some continue for many years.
Spiritual Direction lists in the EBA Region
The EBA region falls under several area lists. We have listed here as many of the networks and lists that we know of and will add more if we come to know of them. Whilst the information about lists are often found on Church of England websites, Spiritual Directors will be from a number of traditions and denominations and Co-ordinators will discuss with you any preferences you might have about this.
ESSEX AND EAST LONDON SPIRITUAL DIRECTION NETWORK
Contact details for the different Area Co-ordinators can be found at:
SUFFOLK SPIRITUAL DIRECTION NETWORK
Spiritual Direction Co-ordinator for Suffolk: firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit www.cofesuffolk.org/deepening-faith/spirituality/spiritual-direction-/
NORFOLK SPIRITUAL DIRECTION NETWORK
Contact Andrew Bryant, Canon for Mission & Pastoral Care:
ELY DIOCESE SPIRITUAL DIRECTION
Contact Jane Keiller and Susan Pitts:
LONDON CENTRE FOR SPIRITUAL DIRECTION DIRECTORY
Trained Spiritual Directors from all areas are able to subscribe to the London Centre of Spiritual Direction’s directory. You can search your area to see if there is someone nearby here: www.lcsd.org.uk/directory
Training for Spiritual Direction
In the EBA region there are two ecumenical courses in Spiritual Direction:
The Essex and East London Course in Spiritual Direction, based near Chelmsford www.cisd-essex.ne
The next course is enrolling now for Sept 2023 start. For more information or to request an application form please visit: www.spiritualdirectionessex.co.uk
There are other courses and ongoing training further afield, including at the London Centre for Spiritual Direction— www.lcsd.org.uk
Those training for Spiritual Direction will have experience of receiving Spiritual Direction themselves and they are likely to be people who are already exercising some type of listening practice, either formally or informally. They might simply be someone who others naturally find it easy to talk to and would like to develop that gift further or they may already have a pastoral role in the church or the community. Most people who successfully complete these courses will exercise the specific ministry of Spiritual Direction, offering one to one listening to others. The art of Spiritual Direction, however, does not have to be practiced in a one to one setting and can enhance ministry and mission in many different ways.
Baptist Spiritual Directors
There are some Baptist Spiritual Directors in the EBA and we hope to see their number grow. If you would like to speak to someone within the EBA about what Spiritual Direction is, how you might look for a Director or to discuss the possibility of training, then please feel free to contact either:
Lynsey Heslegrave from the Essex and East London Course in Spiritual Direction
Ian Randall, from the Cambridgeshire Courses in Spiritual Direction