Wednesday, May 09, 2012

spiritual direction, mission and what the heck then is church?

Natalie Weaver, a 25-year-old musician who lives in Roxbury, does not go to church. But every three weeks or so, she visits a white vinyl-sided building on Dorchester Avenue, a former convent, to meet with her spiritual director.

Fascinating article in Boston Globe, looking at rise in popularity of spiritual direction. It notes

  • a rise in the numbers of spiritual directors, from 400 in one organisation in 1990, to 6,000 today
  • the popularity among young adults, including those with “little religious background [who] find themselves undergoing a spiritual awakening and do not know where to turn.”

Why the popularity? The article suggests it could be the increase in coaching relationships in general in our culture. It could also be the way direction is freed from organisational claims – “no pressure to join a group, make a weekly offertory pledge, or endorse a specific creed.”

So what are the implications for mission and church? Directors see their role as an outworking of mission:

“We really see ourselves as a safe mooring, a place where people pull their ships in, in good shape or bad shape, draw down their sails, unpack their stuff, and begin to restock up for the journey out” said one.

While participants see it as discipleship:

“It has really helped me understand what I believe in when I say I believe in God.”

But is it church? Well not if church is the gathering. Spiritual direction is simply another expression of modern hyper-individualism.

But if church is in the connections, the networks, the interrelationships – that the director themselves have, that are being nourished in the activity of direction – then perhaps this is church. (Applying here the work of Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory which I’ve been reading today. Plus Dwight Friesen, Thy Kingdom Connected: What the Church Can Learn from Facebook, the Internet, and Other Networks).

Posted by steve at 10:03 PM

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