The Auckland Community day in June 2021 was unique for two reasons. It was hosted by the people who meet weekly at St Francis’ Anglican church in Titirangi. This was their first experience of hosting a community day and they did themselves proud. The second reason was having two members of the Mercy Centre Christian meditation group in Epsom lead the day.
Rev. Jeff Whittaker and Sr. Cathryn Wiles-Pickard are both highly experienced spiritual directors and members of the Association of Christian Spiritual Directors in New Zealand. Their theme was Spirituality, Spiritual Direction and Meditation. Some 40 meditators attended the community day and gained much from the two talks given by our presenters.
The talk opened with a reading from John 4:1-42, the Woman at the Well. This is a much-cited motif for spiritual direction as it shows Jesus befriending a woman and in so doing bringing her to knowledge of God and self. In a demonstration of what spiritual direction looks like in real life, Cathryn took on the role of directee and Jeff of director. We bring our whole self to the encounter, not just our spiritual self. While it may look like, and times sounds like, a counselling session, spiritual direction seeks, among other things, where God is leading us in our day-to-day life and most often in the messiness of life.
Spiritual direction, also known as spiritual companioning, has a long history in the Christian church. Of particular interest to meditators is that it is part of the contemplative tradition. Spiritual directors tend to start a meeting with a period of silence and aim to discern the quiet promptings of the Holy Spirit. Discernment plays a big role in spiritual direction.
Where is this issue in my life taking me, what I am I being called to right now? Where is God in all of this? How can I grow my relationship with this great and mysterious God?
Cathryn and Jeff told us that here in New Zealand, spiritual direction is taught from a contemplative viewpoint. Being comfortable with waiting, stillness and silence make a for a good spiritual director. Jeannie Martin Blaker of Spiritual Growth Ministries, the organization that trains spiritual directors, also attended the meeting. She gave us an overview of the two-year course and suggested we Google Spiritual Growth Ministries and the Association of Christian Spiritual Directors to find out more. The latter website is the place to go should you wish to connect with a spiritual director in your area.
There was a wonderful moment during the day when a fantail was sighted darting in the trees. A large window behind the altar looked into the bush and there it was, celebrating life as only piwakawaka can. A fitting moment for a church honoring St Francis.
Our thanks to the St Francis meditation group for doing such a splendid job of hosting the mid-year community day. It is always nice to find a new venue and we will certainly return there some time in the future.
Photos by Suzie Haddow.