This month’s Australian Friend has been guided by the skills and vision of our guest editor, Gerry Guiton. The editorial panel of the Australian Friend thank Gerry both for his time and gift of contribution, and for the wisdom he has given and sourced about the topic of “spiritual direction”. We hope that our readers encounter that of Spirit in both Gerry’s writing and in the sources he has led to this publication.
As the September issue is given to an individual guest editor, the December issue is to be given to one of the many bodies/structures within our Yearly Meeting. Meeting for Learning has generously agreed to guest edit the December issue of the Australian Friend. In their words:
The theme of the December edition will mirror the theme of this year’s Meeting for Learning Retreat, which is “Spiritual Nurture in, of and by our Quaker Community.”
What experience of Quaker community have you had that has supported your true self, your deep sense of connection to all that is? How and where did this happen: during a “leaning against the fridge” conversation, or within a specific Quaker learning session or program? Maybe it was one to one or in a group? Maybe it was your own Meeting, or at AYM or with Friends from other Yearly Meetings? Are you aware of the spiritual nurturing that you give to Friends? How have you been the supporter/listener or been “listened into being” by another?
Please feel free to contribute your thoughts and articles relevant (or not) to the theme of the December issue. They and the articles that our guest editors will also source will no doubt enrich our December reading, and inspire our ways.
But now, back to Gerry, who guides us into the lights of Spiritual Direction:
It is a delight to be the guest editor of the September edition of the Australian Friend. My chosen theme is spiritual direction which, as many will know, is sometimes known as ‘spiritual companionship’ or ‘spiritual friendship’.
There is a long history of spiritual companionship in Friends going back to the earliest days of our Society. Friends wrote letters to each other and to non-Friends such as the dying Elizabeth Claypole, the daughter of Oliver Cromwell. They wrote many ‘Epistles to Friends’ which abound with sound spiritual counsel. George Fox, Margaret Fell and Isaac Penington are just some of the better known names involved in this witness to the Kingdom of God or as Fox called it, the Covenant of Peace. This practice was subsequently carried into the next centuries by the likes of Samuel Bownas, John Woolman, Job Scott, John Willem Rowntree and Edward Grubb, and the tradition continues to this day. Many Friends write books and articles often about such things as prayer, discernment, silence, peace and justice etc. There are many forms of spiritual accompaniment.
The form we are concentrating upon in these pages, one-on-one, goes back a long way to the 4th century Desert Fathers and Mothers, and the medieval mystics. Internationally known spiritual director and author, Janet Ruffing, graciously agreed to submit a paper highlighting the need for spiritual direction in our times and the benefits gained from its originality and creativity. Her complete paper may be viewed online. Victorian-based medical doctor, Janet Duke-Warner, tells of her journey into spiritual direction as guide/director, while we have pleasure in re-printing Noël Staples’ article which appeared recently in The Friend (UK). My own article deals with some of the suspicions, even fear, that some Friends can harbour about spiritual direction whose process I also briefly outline.
I hope you enjoy the articles. My hope is that they inspire you to explore the world of this peaceful and empowering ministry.