What Is Spiritual Direction?

Spiritual Direction is a ‘thing’…

It is a ‘thing’ that people both do and go to, give and receive. Many people think it sounds interesting, but most don’t know what a Spiritual Director does, and who they do it for. I used to think it was only Clergy who could go to a Spiritual Director (and most do), but actually anyone can see one!

The term ‘direction’ or ‘director’ might be confusing, as it usually associated with being told what to do and/or how to do it. However, in this context the real Director is actually God the Holy Spirit, and the human ‘director’ is merely someone who accompanies  the other person in their walk with God.

In Spiritual Direction conversations, we talk about the ways in which God may be touching our lives, either directly or indirectly. We reflect on our own journeys with God, while our Spiritual Director attentively listens. Being really heard, in this kind of a way, is a rare, affirming and encouraging gift.

In these times, a Spiritual Director will not only listen to the person they are with, but they will also help them to discern what the Holy Spirit may be saying to them, personally. This kind of unhurried reflection and sensitive feedback can provide deep insights which are immensely valuable.

In the past, when someone visited their Spiritual Director, the focus of their conversations may have been only their prayer life and their other spiritual disciplines. Nowadays, the discussions are usually much broader, and try to identify the work of God in the whole of one’s life. For example, we might ask:

  • Where is God in my life?
  • What is God saying through my family life, friends, work etc.?
  • Where and how am I seeing God in the highs and lows of life?
  • What might God be asking of me? What am I asking of God?

Sessions with a Director are led by the Directee, and cover the issues that they would like to explore, as it is their spiritual journey which they are meeting to talk about. The Spiritual Director will hold each session in a prayerful atmosphere, and will also hold their Directee in prayer, between their meetings.

In the Diocese of Liverpool, all of our Spiritual Directors have been trained, have a Spiritual Director themselves, and be in receipt of ongoing supervision and support. They are trustworthy people, who maintain confidentiality, and follow the Guidelines for Good Practice for Spiritual Direction.

What are the practicalities?

Meetings with a Director usually last for  about an hour, with the frequency of meetings set in agreement with each other, according to what works best for the people involved. Most people seem to prefer monthly sessions, whilst other people leave it longer between sessions, to fit in with their busy lives.

Seeing a Director can be for a set time (e.g. to discern one issue over a few months), or it can be more open-ended. It’s good to have a yearly review of how things are going, and to see if a need is still being met. There is no charge to meet with a Spiritual Director. You could think of each session as a gift to you!

How might it help me, as a congregation leader?

In our leadership roles we are regularly giving out to many different people, in many different ways (both practically and spiritually). Sometimes it can be hard to ‘see the wood from the trees’, and to discern how our personal lives are affecting our leadership (and vice versa!). Spiritual Direction can help us with this.

Also, while we know that God is part our whole lives, and not just our ‘ministry’, it is all too easy just to focus on that one single area of life, and miss out on what He is doing in the rest of our lives. To be spiritually healthy, we need to maintain a sensible balance. Spiritual Direction can help us with this, too.

How could I get to meet with a Spiritual Director?

It’s very simple. All you need to do is to send an e-mail to the Co-ordinator of Spiritual Directors in the Diocese of Liverpool, the Revd. Dawn Harrison: dawnmharrison@hotmail.co.uk, who will discuss what kind of person you would feel comfortable with, and arrange how you can make contact with them.

By Sharon Boden