Posted on June 19th, 2017
Gill Sewell shares with us her personal journey as a Quaker towards the vocation of spiritual direction. Gill explores how her rich work and life experiences have woven together to inform her practice as a spiritual director. As she explains, ‘It is the whole of my being and the whole of my living that informs my listening.’
A ministry of listening is not what I had envisioned. Quaker silence is my preferred form of worship. Yet I’m most excited by talking about spiritual journeys and faith formation. So to listen, and listen well, has taken training and discipline, both of which have been good to experience and develop. When I look back, I realise that my journey here was propelled by many diverse experiences; by saying ‘yes’ to many other offerings, including a two year ‘Equipping for Ministry’ course at Woodbrooke Quaker Centre, letting go of a ‘high powered’ role in local government after 14 years of service and undergoing 15 months of gruelling treatment for cancer (during which time I lost my hair but not my faith!).
It is the whole of my being and the whole of my living that informs my listening. Woven through all those experiences described above were three years on the excellent Encounter course, where I spent a regular weekday evening in the quiet of St Edmund the King, eliminating the scurrying city workers, endless building works and pub cheer from my periphery - and relishing the stillness, the honesty and the sharing.
So here I stand (or sit) as a spiritual director. Funding from a generous Quaker trust enables me to offer this ministry at low cost or even free, to listen to others from both similar and very different Christian faith perspectives; currently three Anglicans and one Quaker. The wonder of Skype allows me to work with a directed living incarnation-ally in the slums of Kolkata and I meet with the others in London.
There is much joy in these encounters and times of sadness in accompanying others in the shadows of their tales too. One of my observations is that there appears to be a higher risk of making assumptions with Quakers I accompany - because I may think I have an understanding of their journey/ community/ language – whilst with people of a different denomination I sense I make fewer assumptions about what the words or practices might mean; I know that I don’t know!
This ministry is an ongoing work of learning and listening. This continues with my own experience of direction with someone who accompanies me through the desert, jungle and sea shore (and she was there in the chemo lounge too!), and also in my supervision group where I listen and wonder and notice. Sharing, learning and reflecting with love. As an added bonus I have made some deep friendships from the Encounter course that are still sustained years later. I continue to listen to what my own heart says and to notice when my soul sings.