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Spiritual Direction and the Care of Souls: A Guide to Christian Approaches and Practices

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In recent years, many Christian clergy, laity and mental health professionals have rediscovered the ancient practices of spiritual direction. Seen as a refreshing alternative to the techniques and limitations of modern psychology, such practices offer new insights for pastoral care. But many remain unclear on what spiritual direction is and whether its methods are applicab In recent years, many Christian clergy, laity and mental health professionals have rediscovered the ancient practices of spiritual direction. Seen as a refreshing alternative to the techniques and limitations of modern psychology, such practices offer new insights for pastoral care. But many remain unclear on what spiritual direction is and whether its methods are applicable to their own clients and parishioners. Spiritual direction is a practice of Christian soul care that is found most notably in the Catholic, Orthodox and Episcopal traditions but is also present in Wesleyan/Holiness, Pentecostal/charismatic, social justice and Reformed communities. Predating modern counseling and psychotherapy movements but sharing key principles and insights for spiritual formation, spiritual direction offers significant resources for today's pastors, counselors, therapists, chaplains and other caregivers attuned to the work of God in people's lives. In this landmark volume, editors Gary W. Moon and David G. Benner, along with a team of expert contributors, provide a comprehensive survey of spiritual direction in its myriad Christian forms. Specific chapters offer careful historical perspective and contemporary analysis of how Christians from various backgrounds have practiced spiritual direction, with particular attention to each tradition's definition of spiritual direction, the process of authentic transformation, the role of the spiritual director, indicators of mature spirituality and other aspects of the spiritual direction process. Chapters also provide psychological and clinical insight into how spiritual direction is similar to, different from and can be integrated with psychotherapy and pastoral counseling to help others experience spiritual transformation and union with God.


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In recent years, many Christian clergy, laity and mental health professionals have rediscovered the ancient practices of spiritual direction. Seen as a refreshing alternative to the techniques and limitations of modern psychology, such practices offer new insights for pastoral care. But many remain unclear on what spiritual direction is and whether its methods are applicab In recent years, many Christian clergy, laity and mental health professionals have rediscovered the ancient practices of spiritual direction. Seen as a refreshing alternative to the techniques and limitations of modern psychology, such practices offer new insights for pastoral care. But many remain unclear on what spiritual direction is and whether its methods are applicable to their own clients and parishioners. Spiritual direction is a practice of Christian soul care that is found most notably in the Catholic, Orthodox and Episcopal traditions but is also present in Wesleyan/Holiness, Pentecostal/charismatic, social justice and Reformed communities. Predating modern counseling and psychotherapy movements but sharing key principles and insights for spiritual formation, spiritual direction offers significant resources for today's pastors, counselors, therapists, chaplains and other caregivers attuned to the work of God in people's lives. In this landmark volume, editors Gary W. Moon and David G. Benner, along with a team of expert contributors, provide a comprehensive survey of spiritual direction in its myriad Christian forms. Specific chapters offer careful historical perspective and contemporary analysis of how Christians from various backgrounds have practiced spiritual direction, with particular attention to each tradition's definition of spiritual direction, the process of authentic transformation, the role of the spiritual director, indicators of mature spirituality and other aspects of the spiritual direction process. Chapters also provide psychological and clinical insight into how spiritual direction is similar to, different from and can be integrated with psychotherapy and pastoral counseling to help others experience spiritual transformation and union with God.

30 review for Spiritual Direction and the Care of Souls: A Guide to Christian Approaches and Practices

  1. 4 out of 5

    Staci Lee

    This is an informative book about the importance and expectation of a spiritual director in many of the Christian faiths.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Craig Prather

    This text, in my opinion is actually around 3.5 stars. It is definitely educational and informative when it comes to various approaches to spiritual direction, however, I really found it hard to engage with the material. Usually in books I find a chapter, or even a paragraph that's like an "ah ha!" Moment. Sadly, I can't recall one of those moments during this read. It Was very informative but I would have liked to have seen more case studies than just in the final chapter. This text, in my opinion is actually around 3.5 stars. It is definitely educational and informative when it comes to various approaches to spiritual direction, however, I really found it hard to engage with the material. Usually in books I find a chapter, or even a paragraph that's like an "ah ha!" Moment. Sadly, I can't recall one of those moments during this read. It Was very informative but I would have liked to have seen more case studies than just in the final chapter.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Steve Watson

    I gained insight and help joining the authors in reflecting on the slow, steady nature of our journey toward wholeness and holiness as well as on the stakes involved. I love the line, “The search is for life in God’s kingdom. Hurry is the devil.” (12) I also love the comments on the relationship between care and cure. There were also multiple spots where the fruit of love is emphasized, both in the beginning and in the section on the Wesleyan traditions. To become love is my life’s aspiration an I gained insight and help joining the authors in reflecting on the slow, steady nature of our journey toward wholeness and holiness as well as on the stakes involved. I love the line, “The search is for life in God’s kingdom. Hurry is the devil.” (12) I also love the comments on the relationship between care and cure. There were also multiple spots where the fruit of love is emphasized, both in the beginning and in the section on the Wesleyan traditions. To become love is my life’s aspiration and what I would long for in anyone else’s life as well. I also love the theology and experience alluded to especially in the orthodox tradition, which sees spiritual formation as purgation, illumination, and union. I have one significant disappointment in the book and another area more personal to me where I had a life-flowing-out-of-me reaction. As with many of our readers, the writers seem to think that global and historic Christianity is a White religion. They literally label their review of Christian spirituality “The Seven Major Traditions of Christian Spirituality.” Then they proceed to present seven White authors, who - as usual, apart from the biblical texts - site 97-99% white authors and churches and experiences in their thinking and writing. This is not merely a pet peeve of mine; it is satanic poison fruit of centuries of white supremacy in Christendom. The final four traditions all acknowledge that spiritual direction, and in some cases, even more systematic relationships around spiritual formation, are weak spots of the tradition. But they write on anyway, looking for analogies in their tradition. By 2004, it would have been easy to find an African-American or Latin American writer, for instance, who could have talked about spirituality and spiritual formation and guides within their tradition. By 2004, for instance, renewalist branches of the faith (what the book calls the Pentecostal and charismatic streams) were already majority non-white and majority non-US. You wouldn’t know that from this book. I also had my own personally complex reactions to the chapters on the Wesleyan-holiness and Pentecostal/charismatic traditions. I’ve not been a long-term insider to either tradition, but both significantly formed the varieties of evangelical faith that were part of my formation in the 90s through five or six years ago. I found myself a little emotionally and physically reactive to some of the perfectionist legalism in one and the anti-intellectual and anti-authority bent of the other, even as I appreciated in my mind certain aspects of what the authors were saying. Additionally, as a pastor without a denomination and without a clear traditional home, it was interesting that I found most resonance with elements of the orthodox, wesleyan, and social justice traditions - three that don’t mingle typically but all mingle in part in me. And lastly, before the quotations, glad for the attention to ethics in this book. All pastors and spiritual directors could learn a little more from the therapeutic profession's work around boundaries. People's journey is theirs, not mind. And their goal is set by them, not me. "The English phrase 'care of souls' has its origins in the Latin cure animarum. While curs is most commonly translated 'care,' it actually contains the idea of both care and cure. Care refers to actions designed to support the well-being of something or someone. Cure refers to actions designed to restore well-being that has been lost." (11) "The search is for life in God's kingdom; hurry is the devil." (12) "At the heart of spiritual formation is becoming aware that God is everywhere and learning to practice his presence and held to his transforming grace." (14) "journey motif for spiritual formation" - purgation (detachment, reorientation, confession, etc.), illumination ('deepening experience of the love, joy and peace of God"), union (18-20) "Bishop Kallistos Ware notes five basic roles of the spiritual father: doctor, counselor, intercessor, mediator and sponsor." (43) "Wesley wrote, 'Entire sanctification or Christian perfection is neither more nor less than pure love.... The Refiner's fire purges out all that is contrary to love.'" (116) "Wesleyan-holiness theologian H. Ray Dunning speaks of sanctification as providing four freedoms: (1) freedom for God, (2) freedom for others, (3) freedom from the earth and (4) freedom from self-domination." (125) "Linking the community, the individual, spiritual development and social action, John Donne puts it this way: 'I am involved in mankind.' Thomas Merton considers social action to be peculiarly Christian because it 'discovers religion in politics, religion in work, religion in social programs for better wages.' It is especially christocentric, 'because God became man, because every ma is potentially Christ, because Chris is our bother, and because we have no right to let our brother live in want, or in degradation, or in any form of squalor whether physical or spiritual.'" (148-149)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Forshee

    If you are looking for a book to tell you specifically what Spiritual Direction is, then this is not your book (though it is quite informative to how Spiritual Direction works and the goals/heart of SD, however, it is mixed with other information), but if you are looking for a book that gives a good overview of how America's church traditions view spiritual direction, psychotherapy, and pastoral counseling then this is your book. It is academically written so reads more like a textbook or like a If you are looking for a book to tell you specifically what Spiritual Direction is, then this is not your book (though it is quite informative to how Spiritual Direction works and the goals/heart of SD, however, it is mixed with other information), but if you are looking for a book that gives a good overview of how America's church traditions view spiritual direction, psychotherapy, and pastoral counseling then this is your book. It is academically written so reads more like a textbook or like a thesis. If that is not your style, then you may not enjoy this book. However, I found it absolutely insightful and encouraging in discerning my desire to pursue a calling to Spiritual Direction and confirm my thinking that I do not want to pursue a degree in counseling or therapy. It also helped me decipher a great deal between the heart of each church tradition and a great deal of history. I will say, being Anglican, I was highly disappointed in the way the Episcopalian tradition was depicted. I felt a great deal of tradition and Anglican spirit was not expressed due to the current Episcopalian (American) diversions (not all Episcopalian churches are this way) from the true, more international Anglican Way. That would be my only complaint about this book. I appreciated the wide range of perspectives and honest look at how Spiritual Direction is not and should not be counseling, but that SD can be integrated into therapy (but this book is mostly theoretical and in early stages of research and wondering I would say).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Scroggins

    I picked up this book because I wanted a good introduction on the topic of spiritual direction. I was interested in seeing the approach of authors from different Christian traditions (Orthodox, Catholic, Episcopal, Reformed, Wesleyan, Social Justice, and Pentecostal). There were many similarities in what each had to say, which made the book rather repetitive at times. Overall, the content was helpful. If you're looking for a primer, this is a good starting point. If you're more widely read on th I picked up this book because I wanted a good introduction on the topic of spiritual direction. I was interested in seeing the approach of authors from different Christian traditions (Orthodox, Catholic, Episcopal, Reformed, Wesleyan, Social Justice, and Pentecostal). There were many similarities in what each had to say, which made the book rather repetitive at times. Overall, the content was helpful. If you're looking for a primer, this is a good starting point. If you're more widely read on the topic than I was, you might want to skip this one.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jen Yokel

    Maybe more like 3.5. It’s a helpful and broad intro to How soul care is practiced in different Christian traditions, but it reads like a textbookish, informative anthology... which is exactly what it is. Very much appreciated the helpful focus on the differences between spiritual directors, pastoral counselors, and psychotherapists.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Carey Louise

    This book was required reading for my course in Spiritual Direction. It was hard to move through at a good pace. The writing was dry and often repetitive. It is more of a description of how it is approached in various Christian faith traditions, rather than a practical "how to." It also includes a comparison/contrast between spiritual direction, psychotherapy, and pastoral counseling. This book was required reading for my course in Spiritual Direction. It was hard to move through at a good pace. The writing was dry and often repetitive. It is more of a description of how it is approached in various Christian faith traditions, rather than a practical "how to." It also includes a comparison/contrast between spiritual direction, psychotherapy, and pastoral counseling.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This was not my favorite spiritual direction resource - because it is a series of essays written by different folks, far too much of the book felt repetitive

  9. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    This is a great source for understanding and defining spiritual direction all the more clearly. In the first chapters you'll hear spiritual direction defined by directors from different Christian traditions. You'll see the similarities and the differences within each tradition. Another major emphasis carried all the way through, but most specifically in the latter chapters, is a definition and comparison of Spiritual Direction, Pastoral Counseling and Psychotherapy. You will learn how they overl This is a great source for understanding and defining spiritual direction all the more clearly. In the first chapters you'll hear spiritual direction defined by directors from different Christian traditions. You'll see the similarities and the differences within each tradition. Another major emphasis carried all the way through, but most specifically in the latter chapters, is a definition and comparison of Spiritual Direction, Pastoral Counseling and Psychotherapy. You will learn how they overlap and how they differ, along with recommendations on how one might use both/all in a productive way while keeping them distinct.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rachelle Sperling

    A very interesting book on both the historical denominational differences in the practice of Spiritual Direction as well as the comparisons and contrasts between Spiritual Direction, Physiology and Pastoral Counseling.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    Mediocre. An interesting read, but not sure what the book accomplishes.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne Johnson

  13. 5 out of 5

    Liz Kahle

  14. 4 out of 5

    Liam Atchison

  15. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tara Owens

  17. 5 out of 5

    Josh

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brent

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bret Wells

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kira

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alex

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  24. 4 out of 5

    drmidkiff

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jerry

  26. 5 out of 5

    J G

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brenda Hathaway

  28. 4 out of 5

    Richard Rife

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jos Moons

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brian Spatz

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