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I have been a spiritual director since 2006 and have offered spiritual direction, both individually and in a group.
Spiritual direction is the process of accompanying people on a spiritual journey. Spiritual direction emphasizes growing closer to God.
Spiritual direction, sometimes referred to as spiritual guidance or spiritual friendship, is an on-going relationship in which one person (the directee), desirous of being attentive to his or her spiritual life, meets with another person (the director) on a regular basis (approximately once a month), specifically for the purpose of becoming more attuned to God’s Presence in order to respond more fully to that Presence in all of life.
Spiritual direction has been part of the Christian tradition for centuries.
The latest issue Presence, the journal for spiritual directors published by Spiritual Directors International, has an article about a new venue for this practice.
Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr
“E-spiritual Direction: Providing Access for people in Outlying and rural Areas” was written by Joann Nesser who shares her initial reactions to listening this way, ideas on how it can work, unexpected benefits and the challenges she found. She also mentioned some spiritual directors are offering their service using Sype.
Since I live in a rural area and am comfortable with technology, the article fascinated me.
The process Nesser found useful was a monthly email from the directee in which she responded by email. This led to the main benefit: the directees were writing once a month – reflecting and finding the words to describe – where God was meeting them that month.
What a blessed opportunity.
“As people’s schedules get busier and busier, I think that e-spiritual direction will become a common way to meet the growing need for spiritual direction.”
My first reaction was hesitation about offering something as intimate as spiritual direction without the person to person contact but after reading this article, I am thinking this just may have great potential.
What do you think? Would you be open to online spiritual direction?
One of the downsides, I think, to blogging is that I often feel compelled to dash off an immediate response. This one, though, I needed to think about and chew on before I answered. I didn’t even know what spiritual direction was until a few years ago I became friends with a woman who did this. We didn’t have a formal spiritual direction relationship, but I learned a lot from her. She moved away, and just recently I started thinking about this again. Then I read a novel in which a spiritual director was a main character. Then I read another blog post today. Hmmmm….
I don’t know how effective an email relationship would be, having little to compare it to. But, knowing how valuable and life-giving my friendship was with someone who as my almost-spiritual director, I have to say movement in that direction is probably better than nothing at all.
Does that make sense?
Jean Wise says
Thank you for all the great comments. I think the conclusion is that this method might work under the right circumstances and with the right people. probably not best for everyone. Hope many of you can read the article as some of the concerns we all brought up here was mentioned.
As a spiritual director I personally have experience direction 1-1 and in a group. both was at the best time for me at that time.
again so glad to connect with all of you.
As a spiritual director I feel that I have to be able to listen to the person and also watch their faces and eyes, etc. Skype could be a possibility depending upon situation.
I have tried email with directees who moved out of state but I do not think it is very effective.
It is hard to “listen” through email and it becomes more of a mentoring thing. Or advice giving. Which is ok. But I would not really call it spiritual direction.
I agree a lot with what Diana said.
I think in some circumstances it could work very well, most particularly if you had already established an in-person relationship. Starting from scratch via the internet could be tough, in fact I think it might well be impossible. I absolutely believe that the Holy Spirit is not bound by technology – but…there is a lot to be said for sharing the same physical space, at least initially.
I have done a lot of pastoral counseling on line, through email and chatting in real time. I am doing direction while still in training to be certified and I do have some email contact with one or two of those I see – but the actual direction time is invaluable. I think it will happen, given this huge surge in social media, but I’m not convinced that all by itself it will suffice. If you try this, why not write about it and tell us what you think the pros and cons are. Thoughtful questions, Jean. Thank you.
I would embrace this TOTALLY!!! I live in a very small town–I am very active in our church–I have a full time job so an online opportunity would be wonderful. I have been blessed to take seminary classes on line and that worked very well—becoming “community” in the online setting was actually quite enjoyable!!!
Hmmm…this gives me something to think about. I am blessed to have my spiritual director only 20 minutes from me, but we also communicate via email. It’s nice to have both, but I would be open to only online if she moved away.
I think if I felt comfortable/respectful of the person, it would be great.
Jean Wise says
I am pleasant surprised at the positive response here so far but those of us on the computer are used to the computer. Thanks for the comments. I think if asked I would be willing to try this venue, like you all said, depending on the individual.
Phather Phil Malmstrom says
I’ve done some spiritual counseling through email and IM Jean, and in some circumstances it works very well… Not so much in others. I believe it very much depends on the needs of the individual to determine whether it’s an effective methodology or not.
Have a Blessed Day!
I find spiritual direction thru email to be similar to watching a tennis match – watching the conversation being lobbed back and forth over the net(pun intended) but I have found Skype to be a much better alternative where there is face to face contact and an opportunity to respond to the Spirit’s leading in the moment.
I would absolutely be open to it. I have hesitated seeking spiritual direction because of the time involved traveling to and from the potential spiritual director’s home. I think people can be more honest sometimes behind a computer screen also. Some of my best counseling with people has been by email. So when do we get started? 🙂