Posted on October 11th, 2020
My vocation to deal with the margins emerged during the Encounter course, which I have just completed. This was a strange experience in itself, particularly while I was surrounded by those dealing with and/or from the Centre, and it has acquired renewed strangeness as I establish my practice in a place rather distant from the Centre, in Norwich.
Just as the course was coming to an end and I was preparing to launch my first independent person-focussed ministry, all spiritual direction had to go on-line, as did the course itself. The skills and concepts required for effective ministry in the physical space were now only applicable in so far as they transferred to the virtual arena: a question which could only be answered as we experienced that arena itself. This was an anxious time, and has left me less than confident about setting out into the post-course world. The marginal - on-line direction - has become core, and we are all still adjusting or waiting for this to change.
In this context, the most urgent question which arises for me is this: how far towards the edge of the familiar can I feel driven before it becomes impossible for me to offer spiritual direction? It seems instinctively correct that one has to be standing in the flow of life, connected to oneself, to one’s body, to one’s spirituality, to the Holy Spirit, in order to be able to offer spiritual direction to another person. This sounds naïve and arrogant, as soon as the thought forms. Many people have experienced, and indeed embraced, diminishment, limitation, suffering etc., and continued to offer much-valued spiritual direction. Where, then, does my instinct come from?
Perhaps from a need for power, for recognition, for prior validation of the courage to continue to open oneself up by offering spiritual direction. In the absence of that felt prior assurance of connection to the Spirit, what is the basis for the extraordinary offer to help another person connect with the divine?
That basis comes from the same place as the courage to go on praying, asking God for the things I need to sustain daily life. These include the practical, particularly at the moment as I sit here with my right leg effectively immobilised; the emotional, in continued isolation from a beloved in America; and the spiritual, in my uncertain connection with a church whose concerns frequently feel hopelessly distant from my own and from those of any version of the Kingdom I can imagine.
I pray from where I am for the strength to carry on walking towards God, and I seek to practice spiritual direction among and for those doing the same. There is no need for our paths to be the same for us to be able to walk alongside each other; we have only to be seeking to move in the same ultimate direction: towards the greater flowering of God’s love.
Tim completed the Encounter course in July 2020, and is starting to develop his ministry.