The Revd Dr Jenny Dawson describes her Spiritual Direction training, in Australia.
Why does she go to remote Kincumber four times a year?
- Is it because I just love learning?
- Is it because I know I need more skills to offer the people who come to me for spiritual direction?
- Is it because I have had some formation, enough to know the riches of experiencing more?
- Is it because, like many of my friends, I have a child living in Australia and want to have opportunities to visit?
- is it because I won Lotto so have lots of money to spend on travel?
All these factors are part of my response (yes to all of them except the last!) when people ask me why I am doing a course that will require me to have weekends in Australia four times a year over the next four years.
Since I enjoyed the Ignatian-based SEED course run by Pamela Warnes in Christchurch nearly two decades ago, I have gradually and at first hesitantly moved into the role of spiritual director for people who have approached me, and eventually I realised that my questions need deepening and re-framing, probably through some further formation.
I have completed the Thirty Day “long retreat” and have long felt drawn to Ignatius, although I have a personal commitment to a Cistercian monastery whose ethos is rather different.
There are so many tools and so much wisdom out there. SEED covered much that is offered in the highly-regarded Spiritual Growth Ministries programme so I looked forward to learning with the group, which is now called Ignatian Spirituality NZ in the two-year Te Wairua Mahi course. Sadly, when their dates came out, I had already committed the first weekend and could not change it.
So, disappointed, I remembered a friend talking about the “Listen Into Life” programme offered by an ecumenical group called Barnabas Ministries and based at Kincumber Retreat Centre near Gosforth in New South Wales. It seemed crazy, but suddenly some money came available and I found myself beginning the rigorous application process – and was accepted.
I have now participated in three of the 2019 training weekends, with the 7 other people in Year One and the nearly 40 others on the course. I have discovered various ways of travelling from Sydney to Kincumber (mostly involving hitching rides with new and old friends) and have begun to enjoy being part of a very diverse learning community.
The ethos is strongly contemplative and expects participants to be open to personal transformation, which I believe is happening as I learn more about noticing the movements of God within myself and others.
The weekends involve community worship, “quads” (a slightly scary process where we take different roles in the process of direction, involving real issues), input on a different topic each weekend in three solid sessions, and time with a supervisor who responds our written work, asking searching questions about personal transformation. Between weekends there is more work to be done: reflection on learning, assignments particularly on the history of Christian spirituality, and book reviews.
I am Changing
Bless the confusion. Let it be.
Commend it to Earth – like autumn leaves,
scattering, half-rotten, seeding the future,
becoming fertile food, for sleeping rose roots.
Be a leaf. Lie low. Be blown.
Receive rain. Fly to Earth. Become a rose.
I bless the confusion and let be
– between seasons, I am
changing into me
Other Resources about Spiritual Direction and Ignation Spirituality
- Spiritual Growth Ministries https://www.sgm.org.nz/
- Barnabas Ministries – https://barnabasministries.org.au/listen-into-life/
- St Josephs Kincumber https://www.stjosephskincumber.org.au/
- Southern Star Abbey http://kopuamonastery.org.nz/
- Association of Christian Spiritual Directors https://acsd.org.nz/
Jenny lives in Pukerua Bay, where she offers spiritual direction/consultancy, supports the Living Wage Movement and the Cistercian Associates of the Southern Star Abbey at Kopua, and enjoys movies and books and painting.
Find Jenny on facebook: Eccles Unlimited Consultancy.