sIn September 2019, Julie Dunstan, Ruth Holgate, Alison MacTIer and Nick Helm met to have a conversation about Spiritual Direction in the UK. The idea of a National Forum for Spiritual Direction emerged from this. Subsequent conversations drew in John-Francis Friendship, Chris Chapman, Julia MacDonald and David Smolira. These led to initating a discernment process and the invitation to Spiritual directors in the UK to contribute to this.
Supporting good practice
The initial concept was described in this way: “We see the potential for such a forum to be a common table and a centre of gravity for thinking together and encouraging good practice in Spiritual Direction. This common table provides the place where we can gather, relate and share matters of mutual interest. A centre of gravity holds things in relationship and in a forum our common concern for Spiritual Direction provides this. In so doing it allows for individuality in finding our places around it. Thus the forum would be a space for communication and discernment rather than oversight or control. “
To develop a National Forum for Spiritual Direction?
We embarked on a discernment process that sought to draw upon the prayed response of many who are actively involved in Spiritual Direction in the UK.
Through July and August over 260 people signed up to participate in our consultation about establishing a National Forum for Spiritual Direction in the UK. We were delighted with this interest and are very grateful for the 170 people who took the time to complete the online response form or emailed their responses direct after their prayer and reflection. The collated responses produced a 70 page word document!
We have taken time to compile the statistical results from the feedback and these are detailed below. The headline is that 93% gave an unequivocal YES to the question ‘Do you think establishing a forum should be pursued?’
The rather more complex task to reading, assimilating and discerning God’s lead from the responses is in process. We will be meeting for a day of prayer and discernment on 3rd November to move this process on.
If you would like to have a copy of the compiled responses (anonymised) please request one by email using this link.
We are shaping the discernment process to help us draw three key aspects as we look ahead.
We are not aiming to complete this in one day. Neither rushing nor dallying, we intend to attentive to what is emerging and be clear about our next steps by the end of the day. There will be another mailing in November to share our progress.
The graphs and comments below come from the responses where people gave a numeric response, and so have been analysed and put into graphical form to show something of the general tenor of the responses.
As you can see, over 95% (ie over 150 people) were positive about pursuing the forum.
When asked to indicate the strength of the most positive benefit and the biggest drawback the positive benefits were remarkably strong, averaging 4.3 out of 5; the biggest drawbacks were weaker averaging 3 out of 5.
Overall the value of establishing a National Forum averaged at almost 4.5 out of 5. The drawbacks averaging 1.9 out of 5.
The involvement of those that participated reveal an interesting, but not surprising mix of involvements and responsibilities, as does the reported number of spiritual direction sessions given in the last year. A rough calculation suggests that those who participated in this process have given over 13,000 hours of spiritual direction in the last year!
Many thanks to all who participated. We look forward to the next phase of this journey.
We gave a day on 3rd November to pray, reflect and discern where God was leading.
Each of the group prepared by prayerfully reading all the feedback, and compiling three lists of about three key points under the headings of Vision, Values and Mission. We understood these in this way:
We would like to extend our conversation and discernment around this possibility to those who are involved in the provision, training and promotion of Spiritual Direction across the UK. To this end, we invite you to contribute to this, by thinking, praying and sharing your insights with us. We will then give time to look at the responses, reflect and continue our discernment and report back to you about what emerges from this process.
We ask you to prayerfully consider this idea of a ‘forum for Spiritual Direction’ – both what you find positive, attractive, hopeful about it, and what you find negative or worrying about it. Please download this sheet that outlines a way you might prayerfully engage with this. At the end of July we’ll open an online feedback form for you to use and submit your response by the end of August.
Please also, pass this invitation on to others you are connected with in supporting, training and promoting the ministry of Spiritual Direction.
Our intention is that a Forum would enable those involved in Spiritual Direction to connect, explore and encourage best practice in Spiritual Direction in a way that affirms our commonality and diversity. We are aware of the recent announcement by the group that has been exploring accreditation of their intention to establish ’Spiritual Direction UK’. We take no particular stance on accreditation, welcoming Spiritual Directors to the forum in their diversity of view on this and many other subjects.