Rector's Letter - September 2016
It is honestly true to say that each day when I wake, I have the sense of what privilege it is to serve as a priest within our communities. Part of that, is recognising there is a joy and trust in being able to walk alongside others, hearing others' stories - hearing your stories. Within that sharing of fellowship, it is so important we are able to encourage one another in our general day-to-day life, but also in our spiritual lives - fanning the flame of faith alive, and holding it out as light for one another when our own flame perhaps flickers. That deep connection with one another, within our shared deep connection with God, is what brings me the greatest joy. It is why I love our worship together, our regular quiet offices of morning prayer at Amberley and evening prayer at Minch, our shared planning and laughter, as well as tears and pain, as we 'walk the walk' together. I will share with you that one of the most special moments for me is that moment when you come and stand or kneel at the altar, and we may both know something of what has gone on for you that past week - and I offer out to you the bread and wine in a shared moment of Holy Communion, praying and knowing and wishing that it might be for you such an encounter of nurture and feeding, as, in faith, you receive Christ. It is a moment of almost tangible love. It's there, in the bread. It's there, in the wine.
Some of this nurturing of faith rightly happens in church, some in other learning and prayer spaces (the benefice retreat for instance - do consider coming!) and sometimes we need additional spaces to discover a little more about our own spirituality and the richness that awaits us in a life lived in God.
For awhile now I have been exploring and learning to be what is called a 'spiritual director', and spiritual direction is something I receive myself. In recent weeks and months I have found there have been several people across our benefice who have needed an intentional space where they meet with someone with whom they can explore their own spiritual life in a safe and trustworthy place, so I have found myself telling various people about what spiritual direction is, and helping them find their own spiritual director through the Gloucestershire Network. It feels that this is a ministry that many might not know about, and I offer it out to you as something which I think can bring enormous benefit.
Spiritual direction is a rather misleading term: it sounds like you meet with someone who is simply going to tell you what you should be doing. That is not spiritual direction! Some people call it travelling with a soul friend - again, that doesn't quite fit. Really, it is spending time every couple of months, for perhaps an hour, with someone who has the capacity to sit and listen. It is the offering of a space in which thoughts and feelings may be shared, hopes and longings, aspirations, troubles and anxieties. Within that, the person listening may ask questions to help you reflect upon what may be going on in your own life, what connection that has with your spiritual life, and how you may begin to discern what feels to you to be the right way forward. It is a place to make sense of real life, the warts and all of it, to get in touch with our deepest selves, and to consider our relationship with the Divine.
I began having a spiritual director many years ago now, long before I became a priest, and I wish every single person might find a spiritual director - it is the most valuable of encounters! I have learnt much about myself - as well as the God I worship - in that quiet space which has been just for me. My last spiritual director, until his retirement, accompanied me through many journeys, various life-changes, many tears, much laughter, many joys. He saw me through a journey of vocation that I am not sure I would have negotiated well without him! In a world that is busy and often has little time to listen, less time to understand, it can be a precious space to explore, develop, grow and be nurtured in living life well and understanding the thread of divine love that runs through everything we do and everything we are, whether we know it or not.
If you would like to know more about spiritual direction, and what it might be like to experience, please do have a word with me. I can talk you through a little more what it feels like, what it entails, and if you would like to explore further, can give you the contact details to begin to find a spiritual director who might be right for you. There is a special Gloucestershire Network of Spiritual Directors and a process to help you find the right one, and yes it is for laity as much as for clergy!
With best wishes