Posted on May 24th, 2017
John-Francis Friendship tells us about the fascinating history behind our Exploring Christian Spirituality course and it’s unique & experiential approach. ‘In being experiential it has sought to complement personal journeys in spiritual development. Those who participate are gently helped to reflect on that journey, learn about different ways of praying and develop their own spirituality as they explore how spirituality and life are to be integrated.’
In 2006 the then Director of the London Spirituality Centre, Andrew Walker, invited myself and (Sr.) Sue Makin to devise a course which would offer a basic introduction to the subject of Christian Spirituality. At that time both of us were tutors on the London Course in Spiritual Direction and it had become apparent that many who joined did so with little knowledge about the great traditions of Christian spirituality. It was, therefore, intended as a possible ‘introductory course’ yet to also stand alone in addressing the subject that gave its name to the Centre – Christian Spirituality. Subsequently Encounter has included some input into the subject but from the perspective of Spiritual Direction whereas ECS explores the subject in far greater depth.
ECS has always been open to people of all faith traditions and none who would be prepared to make their own contributions as we not only intended to deliver teaching but also to draw on the experience of participants. It was hoped that there would be about a dozen people involved served by two tutors who would complement each other in gender and religious tradition a balance which, by and large, has been maintained. At the end of each year the Course has been evaluated and adjusted in light of comments made.
At the time of its formation there were few Courses on offer which addressed the subject and those which did approached it from an academic perspective. In contrast ECS was intended to be experiential rather than academic and it’s attracted some of those involved in developing spirituality in the wider Church and a few similar courses are now run elsewhere. In being experiential it has sought to complement personal journeys in spiritual development. Those who participate are gently helped to reflect on that journey, learn about different ways of praying and develop their own spirituality as they explore how spirituality and life are to be integrated. The art of Spiritual Direction is also presented as are some of the great traditions of Christian Spirituality (e.g. Desert, Benedictine, Franciscan, Carmelite, etc.) and Biblical themes reflected upon.
Learning is through input and group work utilising a reflective approach; there are opportunities for individual tutoring where required and a weekly period of meditation. Participants are asked to be generous in sharing their wisdom and can find themselves challenged to realise new riches as traditions are explored. To aid this process participants are invited to keep a reflective log through the year. There are also some brief written assignments to aid the process of learning and one main piece of work towards the end of the Course which involves small groups choosing a particular spiritual tradition to present to the others. For most, this is one of the highlights of the Course.
We’re now looking forward to presenting the 12th year of this Course which, in many ways, is still unique.
John-Francis Friendship and Nicola Mason
May 13th, 2017