Friday, November 4, 2011

Spiritual Direction as a tool for times of crisis

The new issue of Liturgy takes “Liturgy and Crisis” as its theme. In the first article, Rev. D. Darrell Griffin explores the fascinating ways in which African American congregations can enculturate and utilize the practice of Spiritual Direction in order to move through times of crisis in faithful ways. Before that was possible, however, he faced the challenge of introducing what was perceived to be an unfamiliar practice.

Yet while I was able to experience a personal spiritual renewal, there was still a void in my understanding and a concern for the spiritual well-being of my church and community. I struggled to incorporate the African American religious experience and tradition into the context of spiritual direction, and I found, to my surprise and disappointment, that my congregation reacted to the ministry of spiritual direction with ambivalence and distrust.

One reason for this is that the term spiritual direction is unfamiliar, not only to my congregation, but to many Protestant African Americans. The ministry of spiritual direction focuses on listening, discernment, and prayer in a confidential setting of encouragement and compassion. In this context, the spiritual director listens to the stories of another’s life to help discern the presence and work of God’s Spirit. However, in the African American community, to entrust the story of one’s sacred journey to another person is a precious gift. For many African Americans such intimate sharing of sacred stories outside of the office of pastor is unheard of.

How can those who have the care of souls more effectively introduce traditional spiritual practices into Christian communities who are unfamiliar with them?

Darrell Griffin (2012): Spiritual Direction for African Americans in Crisis, Liturgy, 27:1, 3-9.

Rev. D. Darrell Griffin is the former associate pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York, and has served as senior pastor of Oakdale Evangelical Covenant Church in Chicago since 2000.

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