Spirituality and Prayer

Spirituality is part of all faith traditions.  Here are some Christian defintitions:

For John Bell "spirituality is the oil which fuels the machinery by which we relate to God, to God's world and to God's people."

For Kathy Galloway, spirituality is "that which ultimately moves you - the fundamental motivation of your life."

For Alister McGrath, "Spirituality ... arises from a creative and dynamic synthesis of faith and life, forged in the crucible of the desire to live out the Christian faith authentically, responsibly, effectively, and fully."

For Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, "Spirituality must now touch every area of human experience, the public and the social, the painful, negative, even pathological byways of the mind, the moral and relational world."

For Philip Sheldrake, "spirituality is the core, centre and axle on which the wheel of theology runs."

Spiritual Direction / Companionship

If you are interested in finding someone to meet for spiritual direction/companionship, whether you are lay or ordained, please contact Revd Graham Green, Prayer and Christian Spirituality Officer tel: 01928 722151, email: graham.green@chester.anglican.org

Spiritual Direction

Jesus promised his followers the Holy Spirit as a life-giving and love-giving gift.  This gift (and continuous giving) is the basis of our spiritual direction.  Licensed ministers support (and are supported in) the discovery and celebration of spiritual direction.  This support usually comes through the practice of local churches, including their shared prayer, teaching, preaching and liturgy.  Local ministers are able to offer spiritual direction, and their details are usually available on parish websites and noticeboards.

Besides support from local ministers, many people also find a one-to-one relationship with a spiritual director helpful in developing their spiritual direction.  Spiritual directors are also referred to as "soul friends" and "spiritual companions." 

The Diocese has a list of trained spiritual directors which is available on request from the diocesan Prayer and Spirituality Officer, Revd Graham Green. 

Here is how one person describes her experience of spiritual direction.

Prayer

Prayer is an essential part of Christian discipleship. There are as many ways of prayer as there are people. From the disciples’ first asking Jesus about prayer so many methods and patterns of prayer have developed as people have explored their personal relationship with God. Prayer has ranged from contemplative to charismatic, and has used silence, art, study, movement and pilgrimage. Spiritual direction involves developing ways of prayer which can be as simple as the way of prayer taught by Jesus in the “Our Father”, and as regular as the prayer for morning, evening and night  derived from the monastic tradition. Saint Teresa of Avila defined prayer as "spending time with a friend whom we know loves us."

The Great Wind of the Holy Spirit

Mother Teresa gave some good advice to her sisters, ‘We can’t do big things you and I, we’re not capable of them, but we can do little things faithfully’

 

It was a stormy night in London many years ago, the clouds had been gathering all day and the breeze turned into a gale. Dustbins were rolling into the road, hats began to fly off and it was impossible to use an umbrella. I was braving the wind as I walked down the road to see a very special person, Ethel MacGibbon. She was in her eighties at the time, had one tooth in her head and was an old Eastender born in the late Victorian age. Ethel had a black cat, a woollen hat which she wore indoors, and surrounded herself with old books from the past.

 

I was pleased to have arrived and there she was huddled round her small coal fire muttering ‘ Oh isn’t the wind terrible’ she exclaimed ‘those poor sailors’, and she continued her muttering, and I realised she was praying for those at sea who would be in mortal danger on a terrible night like this. I sat down by her cat in the firelight and we prayed for them together. 

 

An old kettle was placed on the coals and we supped some tea as Ethel sat there and sowed together some patchwork squares she had knitted. They were for the lepers in India and the poor in Africa to keep them warm at night. ‘Do you know how cold it gets at night in those hot countries? she asked, and stitched away in the firelight.

 

Before I left Ethel asked me to kneel down and she gave me a grannies blessing. Powerful stuff! I was privileged to know Ethel in my younger years, her goodness somehow seeped into you, not that she ever showed any awareness of the light that shone from her.

 

The great wind which blew that night in her heart was the breath of the Holy Spirit, always concerned for others, and then leaping up she started singing one of the old songs while dancing on the spot, her eyes bright with love, she radiated the Divine Love that never despises the little things. I walked back down the road with the wind howling around me, but it was nothing compared to the experience of Pentecost that I found huddled around a small coal fire sitting next to a little black cat, in the presence of someone who could not do great things but did little things faithfully.

 

That evening, so long ago, was alive with Spirituality and Prayer. The saying that ‘Christianity is caught rather than taught’ is so true. You can read the passages on prayer from the New Testament, but it is most powerful when you meet the great wind of the Holy Spirit blowing in the heart of someone sitting with you by the fire.

 

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say , Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4 v 4 to 7.

 Graham Green, Officer for Prayer and Spirituality

 


Retreats

Retreats are for ordinary people at any time in their lives. There are no expectations on anyone going on retreat and you don't need to be a churchgoer.

Retreats offer the opportunity to step aside from life to rest and just 'be' in a welcoming, peaceful place. They can be a real treat, giving time for prayer, reflection and recovery. Jesus gave himself times of retreat and prayer away from others. Retreats are part of the Sabbath provision.

Anyone can go on retreat. There are no expectations and retreatants aren’t all churchgoers. Some retreats are individually guided, taking place in the midst of daily life, or a parish quiet day.

There are also many retreat houses throughout the country, including Foxhill near Frodsham, which has its own programme of retreats, as well as twin-bedded accommodation for those wanting to spend time away on their own. Retreat houses have a rich tradition of hospitality and welcome.

Parish clergy are happy to advise about retreats. There is further information about retreats at the Retreat Association website.  Here’s a list of more local retreat houses (please email suggestions to add to this list):

Ios Olivos Christian Art & Spirituality Retreat Centre is an alternative centre based in the Sierra Nevada national Park in Spain.

Contemporary Spirituality

Here are some links to sites exploring contemporary spirituality:
Blogs and websites that may be worth following as resources for spirituality. Here is a sample:

http://www.moot.uk.net/blog/  - this is the website of a new monastic community authorized by the Diocese of London in which Ian Mobsby is involved.

http://www.thestillpoint.org.uk  - StillPoint is a project based in the Diocese of Oxford which aims to deepen spiritual practice. It is resolutely focused on practice rather than study and is therefore seeking to be experientially based rather than academic.

http://www.home-online.org/blog - Home calls itself  “a progressive, all-age, Christian community of spiritual seekers sharing spiritual practices in the city of Oxford, UK.”

http://jonnybaker.blogs.com/jonnybaker/grace/ - Jonny Baker’s blog is full of grace – and ideas for prayer and liturgy

Jan Richardson is a writer and artist who is based in Florida. She has three helpful blogs:

http://bequietforachange.blogspot.com/ - is designed for “personal transformation through meditation”, and is written by Kelvin Wright, Bishop of Dunedin, New Zealand.

http://www.renovarelife.org/  - The Renovaré approach to spiritual formation draws on six traditions or streams rooted in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. We practice these streams through spiritual disciplines and exercises that help to mature us in our life and faith.

Resources

The Bible Society has developed an online resource for small group conversation on the Renovare approach to spiritual formation that draws on six traditions rooted in the life and teaching of Jesus
http://www.lyfe.org.uk/

Cursillo

Cursillo is a method for supporting and encouraging spiritual confidence as we seek to live and work to God’s praise and Glory Small groups meet regularly for inspiration, sharing successes and problems in individual’s prayer, study and witness chestercursillo.org.uk