Spiritual Direction – Creating Time to Listen, Reflect

By Stan Friedman

CHICAGO, IL (March 23, 2011) – Mary Miller went to her regular meeting with a spiritual director to discuss forgiving someone she felt had betrayed her and was surprised by the director’s response.

The woman asked her, “Do you need to forgive?” Miller, who teaches at the Center for Spiritual Direction at North Park Theological Seminary, was taken aback by the response, thinking that of course forgiveness was required.

But the director also asked Miller to consider what she needed to forgive and did she really want to. That led to a deeper spiritual journey Miller had not expected.

Miller shared her personal story during an hour-long live webcast this morning that involved Miller and a diverse panel of five other spiritual directors who discussed their own experiences and answered questions from viewers.

Participants included Lena Sanchez-Herrera, who serves with InterVarsity Ministries; Neil Taylor, a pastor of Jesus People USA in Chicago; Darrell Griffin, senior pastor of Oakdale Covenant Church in Chicago, Diana Shiflett, youth pastor at Naperville Evangelical Covenant Church in Naperville, Illinois, and Thomas Glossi, associate pastor of the Evangelical Covenant Church in Fort Collins, Colorado, who joined the discussion via Skype.

They shared their own experiences as directors and directees and answered questions from viewers, who communicated through a live chat that accompanied the session. Topics included: what is spiritual direction, how it is practiced, how people might benefit, how to find a spiritual director, and how can it be incorporated into the ongoing ministry of the entire church.

The live broadcast originated from the new Media Center in the Department of Communication at Covenant Offices in Chicago. It drew listeners from the United States, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Spain. A recording of the session is available for viewing. The live webcast page also includes links to other resources about spiritual direction.

The directors agreed that spiritual direction is not a “cookie cutter” ministry, but does allow people space and silence to experience the mystery of God and how he might be moving in their lives. “God meets each person where they’re at,” Taylor said.

After Miller shared her story, Taylor noted that the director had asked a question and not provided an answer because, “answers seem to shut down conversations.”

Glossi admitted that his first response to a person’s story is to provide an answer, but that it is more important for him to listen. The listening includes hearing God speak to the director as well as to the directee.

The directors also discussed the various ways in which they have incorporated spiritual direction. Griffin said his church has incorporated spiritual direction into congregational retreats and even considering who might serve in various leadership positions.

A pastor of an African American congregation, Griffin added, “I’ve been able to help people see that the slave narratives and some of the spirituals were actually places of spiritual direction. It was a place where slaves found a lot refuge – in those images and in those songs.”

People might naturally be nervous about participating in spiritual direction for a number of reasons, including the fear of being vulnerable, but practices can be introduced at retreats.

The Fort Collins congregation gives people the opportunity to experience it at retreats.
“It really has become a nonthreatening way just to be introduced to the practice. And people have come back and many of them have not continued with spiritual direction, but at least it has disarmed and demystified the whole idea of spiritual direction.”

The live webcast was one in a series of broadcasts planned during 2011. Earlier webcasts have featured annual meeting events, a panel on urban ministry, and updates on the Covenant response to the disaster in Japan. To learn more and access previous webcasts, click here.

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