Spiritual Direction and impact of Covid-19

I’ve just had two fascinating zoom sessions looking at impact of Covid-19 on the ministry of Spiritual Direction.

The first yesterday afternoon (14 July) was an online meeting I organised in which 42 participated from around the UK – a time to share experience and listen to what is emerging. I was struck by the wealth of wisdom and commitment to the process shown by the participants. I’m going to be writing up what has emerged from this meeting and will publish that here soon. Thanks to everyone who participated.

This morning I was with the Gloucestershire network of Spiritual Directors and shared with them some thoughts on the changing landscape of Spiritual Direction in a post covid-19 world. I drew greatly from the 14 July meeting to shape my presentation. The interaction with everyone was very enriching. Ultimately strengthening my thinking about the sense that I have that there is an opportunity here. The necessity of shifting to online or telephone encounters if there is to be ongoing spiritual direction has meant many have learnt that it works! There have been things to learn and adapt, and this is clearly an ongoing process for me and for many. What it has enabled is some who wouldn’t otherwise have had or taken up the opportunity for spiritual conversation to have them, and discover the benefit. Today’s session strengthened my thinking, that there is an opportunity for us who offer Spiritual Accompaniment to find ways of offering it to a wider group of people. That will require some imagination, some experimentation and a good bit of talking around the place.

I’m beginning to think this through further, and am interested to hear from others who find this possibility exciting if not also daunting!

 

Text of my talk to Gloucestershire Spiritual Directors.

Changing Landscape of Spiritual Direction in post Covid-19 World

Covid-19 has both changed and not-changed the world

not sure we’ll ever be in a ‘post covid-19’ world, but having been in a non-covid-19 world, we are definitely in a with covid 19 world

for me this has coincided with change in role

from full-time employed to part-time freelance instead of squeezing in SD work to free to do as much as I want
Doing funerals for the first time in 20 yearsπ
I had been very comfortable in this ministry – did a large number as a curate and vicar. Yet I felt extraordinarily out of my depth, out of my comfort zone… cognitive dissonance – I knew I was experienced and capable, but felt utterly green and somewhat awkward.
Actually a helpful metaphor to our thinking today – this sense of:
  • I knew it but I didn’t know it
  • It was the same and it was different
The more conversations I have with spiritual directors in this time, the more I hear evidence of a similar thing going on.
  • There’s change and no change
  • There’s comfort and discomfort
  • There’s opportunity and challenge

What has changed in SD

Place of meeting:

from physical space to digital space

Bodily Presence to Image Presence:

  • bodies speaking their language to be noticed along with words and tone
  • head and shoulders to be watched along with words and tone, internet distortions and delays (directees choose what to present to the screen – can ‘hide’ more as can directors)

Travel:

  • instead of physically travelling, arriving at your front door, ringing bell, being shown in, settle down…having the session, getting up, shown out, walking away, getting home
  • click button on screen to get to you – click another button to get away from you!

Space & Boundaries:

  • Instead of holding your sessions in a space you have prepared – you are comfortable in – have established boundaries to hold the space for both director and directee you may be at your desk, or in some place where the wifi is best or…
  • Instead of coping with occasional noises off (phone ringing or other household noises or noises from beyond – other side of a closed door which generally you can ignore and hold focus
  • May find your directees being interrupted by spouses, children, phone calls in their sometimes unbounded space
  • often shorter sessions at your desk …

Sessions:

  • A number are reporting that the length of sessions is shorter, they are more focussed, can go deeper, but are more tiring, need different preparation and follow up.

Lots has changed

What hasn’t changed

I still want this space to be sacred, well held, focussed

I am still listening for the 3rd party when I meet directee

  • what’s going on with them and God
  • how can I draw this out

I’m still seeking to be poised, open, attentive, discerning

  • to listen to the hidden, important…
  • in them, and the inner prompts in me

I still need my connection to God

  • My spiritual life, my centredness on God and resistance to that which draws me away from God

I still want it to be God at work

  • to not get in the way – allowing as Ignatius puts it, the creator to deal with the creature and vice versa

Worth reflecting on the changes you may or may not be experiencing

  • What effect is it happening on you?
  • What are the changes that you are appreciating, glad of?
  • What are the changes that are difficult to handle, raising your anxieties – inviting you to trust God’s grace in new ways
  • What is this showing you about yourself, your faith, your practice of SD?

Lets step back and get the God perspective: what’s God doing to Spiritual Directors

asking ‘why not do it different?’
  • rocking our boats, disturbing our comfortableness
  • moving us out of our comfort zone – to get out of the boat and walk on water – revealing how we can be like Peter, so worried about what isn’t there, that we forget to keep our eyes on Jesus and put our trust there rather than in our own self-confidence
  • there’s more opportunities than you thought
I’ve had a remarkable number of new opportunities come my way as a result of covid. Things I hadn’t planned for or expected, yet things that fit with my sense of calling for this phase of life. Retreats with retreatants overseas or the far end of the country, talks to Spiritual directors in Gloucestershire, worldwide conversations on Zoom
  • Are there opportunities that you haven’t imagined? Is it your limited imagination that’s stopping you offering your listening to many who might not have accessed it before because of finance, travel, education…
I am present in cyberspace interactions
  • if you have the ears to hear and the eyes to see
  • Be careful about calling this virtual space – there is nothing ‘virtual’ about these interactions – they are real – just different – the presence of God  is real – and dynamic in what is going on
Spiritual Directors networking
  • I sense they are more positive than before about getting together
  • easier to get to than before
  • more connectivity

Conclusion

role is still the same – remain grounded in the fundamentals of role

means of delivery different

be open to the gift of unknowing don’t let fear get in the way

what opportunities are now open?

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