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Re: [IP] Trained Spritual Director

On 20 Dec 00, at 11:01, Bonnie Richardson wrote:

> Would you enlighten me on what this means?  What training, by whom, what do
> you do?  How do you direct?  What exactly does that job title do?  and How
> do you get to be one. 

A warning - I'm speaking from a conservative Christian point of view 
(possibly even somewhat Evangelical in perspective, but being Southern 
Baptist I'm not really comfortable being called an Evangelical) as a 
minister and as someone who has had some experience in doing this kind of 

The title "spiritual director" is an old one and goes back to the early years 
of the monastic movment in the Roman Catholic church in Europe.  It refers 
to a person that provides direction in the development of a person's 
spiritual growth or more normally stated as the person growing in their 
relationship to Christ or becoming Christlike.  Notice that I said direction - 
not guidance.  There is an important distinction there.  A spiritual director 
is not a coach, nor necessarily even a friend.  They are a person who can ask 
questions, provide a reference point and also help the directee ask the right 
questions while pointing them towards potential resolutions.  A spiritual 
director has an interest in the person as a growing human being while at the 
same time holding a certain distance so they can be objective in their 
judgement and actions.

Generally the spiritual director is a person with a well defined, mature and 
secure Christian identity.  Usually they have a well developed set of skills 
in theology, Christian doctrine, Sacramental theology and practice, and may 
have received special instruction in pastoral skills and psychology.  Most 
spiritual directors are clergy but not all clergy are spiritual directors.  
Some spiritual directors are monastics - and I suspect that nearly all have a 
contemplative streak a mile wide. A special requirement is a gift or calling 
to this ministry - because the spiritual director has to invest a lot of time 
and effort into the people they are directing.  It isn't a "six week wonder" 
or a "twelve step program" but a relationship that grows over time.  
Sometimes people want to compare it to counseling or therapy, but it isn't 
the same type of relationship or activity.  A spiritual director is someone 
who lets you walk alongside them on their journey and guides you by helping 
you find your reference points, frame your questions and discover your 
answers.  It's about 5% questioning, 50% holding the person accountable, 
75% listening and 50% just being there, mixed with 100% loving and 
prayerful support.  Sometimes the process involves asking difficult or 
confrontational questions - that's why it requires a lot of effort and 

Over the past ten years we have seen this practice move out of hiding and 
towards more open expression and development in non-Catholic groups, 
especially in Evangelical groups.  There have always been people in all the 
Christian groups who practiced this form of ministry, but we haven't been 
comfortable with the title until recently.  I've been on the directing side of 
this practice for about fifteen years.  In my opinion spiritual direction is 
not the kind of thing that you advertise - it isn't a commercial transaction 
or even a compartmentalized or well documented activity.  Spiritual 
direction comes out of a relationship - similar to a mentor but with a 
different emphasis.  There is not an outline, program or checklist that can 
measure progress - it is a subjective action on the part of all parties 
involved.  There is now acceptance of the practice of asking someone to be 
your spiritual director.  In years past the question was framed as a prayer 
request or request for assistance in vocational guidance or even to be an 
"accountability agent" for someone.  

In my experience it wasn't a task I took on - it was something that I was 
doing before I found out what it was called.   It doesn't seem to be the kind 
of thing you can charge for - handing a person a bill for $50 for "1 hour of 
spiritual direction" has always struck me as very strange and contradictory. 
You couldn't charge enough for the time and effort invested and much of 
the work doesn't occur when the person you are directing is around.  
Sometimes it takes place in well defined chunks or events while at other 
times it's a well timed postcard, letter, email or phone call.  

I hope every one on the list has an enjoyable holiday season.  Christmas is a 
very special time for many of us as we celebrate one of the most significant 
events in history.  Even if you don't celebrate with us, I wish you and your 
family an abundance of happiness in this season and the coming year!  

Rev. Randall Winchester
WD4HVA (email @ redacted)
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