Changes in Spiritual Direction
Spirituality is at the heart of our current Diocesan Vision for Growth, identifying ‘Growth: Spiritual and Numerical’ as one of the three aims. The next stage of the Vision focuses on the credal profession of faith ‘We believe in One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church’; holiness being one of the marks of the Church.
Since the earliest centuries of the church, God has called Christians to offer support to others in their prayer life through forms of spiritual direction. This is a significant Christian ministry that requires a charism or particular gifting from God, rather than being something anyone can be trained in. It is essential that those involved in this ministry are themselves receiving spiritual direction, supervision and ongoing training, including in safeguarding.
In recent years, this diocese has had a network of spiritual directors, a ‘matching’ service for those seeking a director and a spiritual direction training course. In addition, we have a number of clergy, religious and laity who exercise the ministry of spiritual direction but are not part of the diocesan network. I’m enormously grateful to those who have answered God’s call to this ministry willingly and effectively.
With the departure of the Revd Canon Dr Andrew Mayes as Spirituality Advisor, the time was right to review our diocesan provision. Fr Brian Murphy has undertaken a confidential review of spiritual direction, which drew on interviews and questionnaire feedback from those involved in this ministry in the diocese. The review raised significant questions about how we have discerned calling to this ministry, the training programme and our capacity to offer adequate ongoing support and oversight.
The Bishop’s Staff have carefully considered Brian’s recommendations and decided that:
- Due to the importance of this ministry, the Archdeacon of Brighton and Lewes, the Ven Martin Lloyd-Williams will have particular oversight of spiritual direction across the diocese.
- We want to develop the general spiritual culture in the diocese, part of which will be introducing a new ministry of prayer guides, who will be equipped to encourage and support Christians in their prayer lives by offering individual congregations basic training in methods of prayer. More details about this ministry will follow in due course.
- We do not have the necessary resources or infrastructure to make the necessary changes and developments to the spiritual direction network. Therefore, thediocesan spiritual direction network will be dissolved, and the matching process will not continue.
- Again, because we do not have the necessary resources or infrastructure, the diocesan spiritual direction training course will not run again.
However, this will not be the end of the ministry of spiritual direction in Sussex, but it will be overseen and resourced in a different way. Those outside the network can continue their ministry as before, including maintaining appropriate support structures. Spiritual directors who have established relationships with directees that both wish to continue, are of course free to do so, but this will no longer be under the umbrella of the diocesan network.
The London Centre for Spiritual Direction is an established and well-resourced Centre who already have directors from Sussex within their Community of Spiritual Directors. They would welcome applications by directors on our diocesan network who meet their training levels, safeguarding requirements and Code of Practice (https://www.lcsd.org.uk/resources/). They also offer a matching service for those seeking a spiritual director.
In addition, the Centre offers a three- year initial training course for those whose call to this ministry has been discerned. Spiritual Directors who are part of the Community network are given regular supervision and ongoing training – something many of our spiritual directors have asked for.
Ultimately, it is not us but the Holy Spirit who is the director of souls, ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us’ (Romans 5.5).Our prayer continues to be that more people across Sussex come to ‘know, love and follow Jesus’.