Encounter is a formation programme in spiritual accompaniment. It draws its inspiration from ancient and contemporary practice in Christian spiritual direction, modern psychological insights and the gifts and challenges of social diversity.

Encounter is an ecumenical programme rooted in the Christian tradition and is open to all from whatever background who want to explore and develop their vocation in helping others discern and respond to God’s Spirit in everyday life.

Encounter is an experiential and practical programme led by an experienced team of spiritual directors with related expertise and training, including theology, pastoral care, Christian spirituality and psychotherapy.

You can download a PDF copy of the Encounter brochure:

Encounter brochure PDF

What we offer Click to expand

We offer:

† Clear, committed and respectful guidance in the art of spiritual direction.

† Teaching from a variety of perspectives encompassing the breadth of the Christian tradition

† A balance of teaching seminars, small group work and supervised practice building on 25 years of the London Course in Spiritual Direction.

† Comprehensive library and resources for learning at a central London location with easy transport links across the capital and beyond.

† A three year, structured programme comprising six modules and one Saturday intensive each year. Sessions run weekly from 6-9pm.

You bring:

† A sense of vocation to the ministry of spiritual direction and some experience of being in direction/accompaniment;

† Commitment to being in ongoing and regular spiritual direction throughout the programme;

† Willingness to give time to complete recommended reading, journal reflections each week and assignments as given;

† Willingness to participate in peer and self-evaluation; collecting evidence of progress and feedback in a portfolio of learning;

† Ability and intention to attend all sessions;

For more details see the sections below describing each year of the programme.

We encourage you, as part of your formation on this programme to do a retreat at some point in the first year.

Encountering the Tradition - Year 1 Click to expand

† Christian Spirituality

† Key Theological Themes

† Foundations in Listening and Discernment

The first year sets the foundation for all that follows, it is a year of ongoing and genuine discernment of vocation to the ministry of spiritual direction, setting personal exploration within the context of the tradition.

The seminars include teaching on: the history of the Christian tradition, the nature of spiritual direction, prayerful discernment, key theological themes, patterns of spiritual growth and contemplative listening.

The work in small groups is primarily experiential and students keep a reflective journal throughout. There is recommended reading and regular assignments.

Small group focus: Sharing and Contemplative Listening

Saturday intensive: Our Own Spiritual Journey

Pre-requisites: Interview and acceptance onto the programme.

Encountering the Self - Year 2 Click to expand

† Key Psychological Insights

† Growth in Self-Awareness and Prayer

† Development of Listening Skills

The second year encourages self-awareness and explores significant psychological insights relevant to spiritual direction including psycho-spiritual development, the ‘shadow’, sexuality, depression and ‘dark night’, mid-life issues, themes of ageing, mourning and loss. All themes are looked at though the lens of Christian scripture and theology. Considerable time will be taken in the development of good listening skills and practice.

During this year, students are supported in beginning to offer spiritual direction to others if this has not already begun. The foundations of good practice are established.

Small group focus: Discussion and Practice Sessions

Saturday intensive: The Shadow Self

Pre-requisites: Successful completion of Year One and recommendation to continue from the Year leader; receiving regular spiritual direction

Encountering the Other - Year 3 Click to expand

† Political and Social Connections

† Growth in Empathy

† Creative Expressions of Spiritual Direction

The third year reflects upon important social themes including working with difference, social justice, mental health and spirituality, addictions, the interfaith dialogue and eco-spirituality; using the wisdom of the Christian tradition to illuminate these themes. It explores the different contemporary expressions of spiritual direction and provides tutorial supervision for students’ work in spiritual direction.

Small group focus: Case Study and Supervision

Saturday intensive: Hospitality in Spiritual Direction

Prerequisites: Successful completion of Year Two and recommendation to continue from the Year Leader; receiving regular spiritual direction; giving regular spiritual direction to at least two people who are significantly different from each other in some way e.g. gender, race, background, stage of spiritual development

Tutors Click to expand

Julie Dunstan Director

An experienced psychotherapist and spiritual director, Julie has been teaching and supervising others for many years. She is also a licensed lay minister in the Church of England. Her passion and expertise is the interface between Christian spirituality, psychotherapy and spiritual direction.

Nick George Tutor - Year 1 (Year leader)

Nick has joined the Year 1 teaching team having himself been trained on the Encounter Course. He now combines his experience and practice of pastoral ministry with a ministry of spiritual direction.

Nicola Smedley Tutor Year 1

Nicola trained on Encounter and has a passion for its slow formation process, held within a supportive community. Nicola is drawn to one to one accompaniment. She lives this calling both as a spiritual director, a companion for the faith journey towards a deepening of our relationship with God and a freedom to be our true selves; and as a singing teacher, another great journey towards discovering our true, free voice.

Trevor Mapstone Tutor - Year 1

Trevor combines spiritual direction with serving in pastoral work. He has spent his life in encouraging others to grow in authentic, creative, nuanced, open-minded Christian faith. He trained on Encounter and is a passionate advocate of its style and approach.

Val Smith Tutor - Year 2 (Year 2 leader)

With 25 years of experience in an international missions organisation, where she specialised in staff development, Val is passionate about the role spiritual direction plays in personal transformation. Alongside giving direction, Val is also involved in leading retreats and teaching at conferences and training events.

Charles Hippsley Tutor - Year 2

Charles comes from a background in business and church leadership. In 2012, he joined the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity to lead the Work Forum. He also works as a Spiritual Director and teaches on the second year of the Encounter course. Charles lives in Oxfordshire with his wife, Mary, and loves to discover and share practical insights into engaging with God, self and others in daily life.

Anna Bosatta Tutor - Year 2

Anna has a breadth of experience in pastoral and musical projects inside and outside the church, and including in an inner-city church plant, local Anglican churches, a Swiss ecumenical community and an NYC Catholic parish. Anna’s interest in spiritual accompaniment reaches out to anyone who longs for spiritual depth, including those who regard themselves as “spiritual-not-religious”. She is passionate about the integration of the whole person, with a particular personal focus on creativity and embodiment. Musically, Anna revels in choral conducting, singing acappella, and, most joyful of all, playing the oboe.

Maria Manuela Silva Tutor - Year 3 (Year 3 leader)

Born in Lisbon, Maria has lived all her adult life in London. Maria hopes to have gained knowledge and wisdom from having studied Theology and Human Geography and trained as a Spiritual Director as well as raising a family, working in a secondary school in Brixton and being involved in church ministry in some of the most economically and ethnically diverse London boroughs. Maria is passionate about human flourishing, spiritual formation and her three grandchildren!

Gill Sewell Tutor - Year 3

Gill has been a practicing spiritual director since 2015 and a tutor on the Encounter course since 2020. She has been a trainer and facilitator and is now a freelance consultant. Gill is delighted to be part of the Year 3 tutor group, drawing on her own experiences of otherness. She wonders how to embrace the creative Spirit - in spiritual accompaniment, supervision and life generally.

Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen Tutor - Year 3

Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen is a Spiritual Director and Pilgrim Guide, particularly working with people in the first half of life and those experiencing faith shifts. She is passionate about seeking the sacred in the ordinary and, through her work, hopes to facilitate ever-deeper connection with God, our most authentic selves, and all of creation. Previously, she worked in communications and leadership in the NGO sector. She lives in Denmark with her husband and two children, and travels back to the UK regularly for work and family.

Further Information

Encounter is now being offered in a blended-learning format. The format consists of three Saturday intensives in London at the beginning, middle and end of the year. Those run from 11am – 7pm inclusive of an evening meal together.

All other sessions are run online from 6-9 pm. Year One runs on a Tuesday evening, Year Two on Wednesday evening and Year Three on Thursday evening. The year runs from October to end of June, with breaks between modules (not always coinciding with school half-terms).

Current fees per year are £1,600 and arrangements can be made to pay in installments if needed.

​For course dates and other details including term dates, please contact the Director, Julie Dunstan. The application form is available below, and tutor information above. You will also find the Course Outline for all three years available for download. For further information, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Application for Encounter Course
Three Year Encounter Course Outline

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