Journeying and climbing
Updated: Jul 17, 2019
After a stimulating day in the company of 25 spiritual directors at Old Alresford Place in Hampshire, I’ve been reflecting on the similarities between Anna Chaplains and spiritual directors.
Helping people in their own spiritual journey – spiritual accompaniment – is what such chaplaincy is all about, and I once heard the art of ‘spiritual direction’ described thus:
'"God" is a beckoning word. If we follow God’s prompt, we find ourselves on a journey with God through this life and on into the next. Spiritual direction gives us a very particular companion on this journey, walking alongside us.’
That definition comes from an experienced spiritual director, the Revd Canon Dr Peter Lippiett, seeking to explain the relationship between spiritual director and the directee they listen to so attentively when they meet to articulate the experience of this ‘journey with God’.
The Spiritual Directors Network in Winchester Diocese is a busy group of people led by the Revd Sally Dakin, the diocese’s Spiritual Adviser. Demand for their services is growing as clergy, and an increasing number of lay people, discern the benefits of such a ‘soul friend’ along the way.
The Saturday we met was a chance for them to be refreshed on their own journey and to think about their own ageing process as they help others to do so in their turn.
Sally had invited me and the Revd Michael Jackson, former charity director of the St John’s Winchester, which runs care homes, sheltered homes and historic alms houses in the city, to give a day for her network on ‘Spirituality and Ageing Well’.
We spent some time defining spirituality and discussing at what point we leave middle age behind and enter old age these days. We ranged across the landscape of memory and the fears surrounding memory loss.
There in the Mary Sumner room – named after the founder of Mothers’ Union who once lived in this former rectory with her husband George – I unpacked the Anna Chaplaincy approach to supporting people in their later years, which began only a few miles away in the market town of Alton in 2010.
The second part of the day was focused on facing up to our own mortality and coping with loss.
Memorably, Michael quoted the writer Sebastian Barry, who frames our deepest losses in these terms:
‘To remember sometimes is a great sorrow, but when the remembering has been done, there comes afterwards a very curious peacefulness. Because you have planted your flag on the summit of the sorrow, you have climbed it.’
(From On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry)
For more information on spiritual direction, visit winchester.anglican.org/spiritual-direction-hampshire