Within the next two years, Unity Worldwide Spiritual Institute will begin offering training and certification in Spiritual Direction. This will be a brand new educational opportunity for lay members, licensed teachers and ordained ministers to deepen their experience as mentors and spiritual directors. At last week’s Unity South Central Regional conference held here at Unity Church of the Hills, Rev. Robert Brumet’s workshop was a conference highlight, articulating an exciting future vision for Spiritual Direction.
In summer 2018, Unity Worldwide Ministries approved the development of a curriculum and training program for Spiritual Direction, which should be “open for business” in the fall of 2020. The training will consist of online classes and residential classwork to be held at Unity Village in Missouri. Sounds like a terrific idea, you might be thinking. Another great opportunity to learn and serve, right? But what the heck is it?
What is Spiritual Direction?
It is often said that it is easier to explain what Spiritual Direction is NOT, rather than what it is. It is NOT direction at all. The “director” does not tell the directee what to do. It is also NOT coaching or teaching, and it is definitely NOT psychotherapy or prayer treatment. The objective of Spiritual Direction is not problem solving, but rather how to approach life issues from the perspective of recognizing the presence of the Divine in our lives, even amidst life’s ongoing challenges.
Spiritual Direction is the practice of being with people as they attempt to deepen their relationship with the Divine as they learn and grow in their own personal spirituality. As an ancient term, Spiritual Direction is used to describe the relationship and conversations that typically occur between a director and directee. In this relationship, a well-trained director offers to hold a sacred space, to actively listen and offer their presence to another person.
The Purpose of Spiritual Direction
The purpose of a spiritual director is to facilitate the discovery for others of the divine presence within their own being. Many in the emerging field prefer to use alternative terms like spiritual companionship, spiritual mentoring, or spiritual journeying. Whatever the term, the intention is the same. “Spiritual Direction” is the most commonly used, and it is a time-honored, recognized term used across all faith traditions.
Although Spiritual Direction has not historically been “formally” taught within the Unity movement, the side-by-side walk in faith between an individual and a spiritual director has taken various forms over time. Among others, these include pastoral counseling or spiritual coaching, which are different approaches with limited, short-term goals. By contrast, Spiritual Direction is a longer-term relationship, typically lasting 6-12 months, sometimes more.
Spiritual Direction Through the Ages
As a practice, spiritual direction is actually an ancient concept. Across both the Hebrew and the Christian Scriptures, we find people who sought spiritual counsel. The Queen of Sheba sought out the wisdom of Solomon. Jesus gave us many examples in his conversations with both Nicodemus and the woman at the well, and his ongoing direction of Peter and the other disciples. In the early church, people sought out advisors in the desert for spiritual counsel. Across the centuries we find examples in Irish monks and Benedictine nuns, along with Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, among many others.
In history, we know that priests of the Catholic church always sought out a relationship with a spiritual director. In current times, faith traditions such as the Episcopal and Methodist churches have incorporated Spiritual Direction in the lives of their churches tailored for the concepts and teachings of that particular church. Today, there are Spiritual Directors affiliated with individual churches, as well as private practitioners throughout the United States and internationally. Many traditions train and provide spiritual direction to members as they continue to walk in their faith.
Spiritual Direction in the Unity Movement
What might Spiritual Direction look like in the Unity movement? Spiritual Directors in Unity will have been through formal educational training and certification through Unity Spiritual Institute. As a certified Spiritual Director, one would be able to offer monthly meetings, either one-on-one or in small groups, to facilitate an exploration of practical questions and issues around faith and spirituality that can present themselves in our lives.
These monthly meetings would provide spiritual support and mentoring, while nurturing accountable relationships. Typical topics might include exploring how to recognize that the Divine is at work in our lives, or how we might deepen our knowledge and experience of the Christ consciousness, among many others.
Because Unity teachings are based upon truth principles, an exploration of faith may not look exactly like other faith-based traditions. For this reason, it has become apparent that the Unity movement needed its own training and certification in Spiritual Direction. The training towards certification will become available in 2020 through the Unity Worldwide Spiritual Institute. It will be open to anyone dedicated to being a spiritual companion to those who wish to discover the Christ within their own being on a very real and personal basis.
So, what do you say now? Want to be a spiritual director? Would you like to have a spiritual director? If either of these resonate with you, keep an eye out for future news as we get closer to Unity’s rollout of the Spiritual Direction curriculum in 2020.
If you are interested in, or have any questions about Unity’s upcoming Spirit Direction curriculum, please feel free to email Debby Cole.