Offered this summer, one of the foundational courses for several degree programs as well as a class available for audit (info here), is Dr. Valerie Lesniak's STMM 571 class "Introduction to the Art of Spiritual Direction". The practice of going to spiritual direction allows for pause and awareness of the Holy in our lives.
This month, we asked Dr. Valerie Lesniak to share a bit more about this class offering which has meant so much to our students and alumni.
Q: What variety of students typically engage this course at the School of Theology and Ministry?
A: Introduction to the Art of Spiritual Direction (STMM 571) is a required course for all MA in Transforming Spirituality students (with an option to specialize in Spiritual Direction as a part of the degree program), as well as those pursuing a Post Master's Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction.? Students from other degree programs have taken this course as an elective. MA in Pastoral Studies and Master of Divinity students in particular find this course quite helpful in finessing their listening skills and deepening their pastoral presence to others.
Q: Could you share in your own words and perspective what spiritual direction is, and how it can aid students in practical application in various fields and vocations??
A: Spiritual Direction is the art of listening to another as one person explores the way the Spirit moves in their lives.? It is the art of holy conversation.? Our lives are so busy and move so fast that often we forget to stop and wonder how God is with us.? The practice of going to spiritual direction allows for that holy pause and for that holy awareness of God in our lives.? Learning how to listen to the voice of the Spirit in someone else's life demands an openness to God and a willingness to bear witness to the other of how God is revealing God's self in their lives.? In many ways "spiritual direction" is a misnomer.? It is really about attending to God in the midst of our daily lives and allowing God to direct us.? The spiritual director acts as a mirror so another sees more clearly the ways of God in their lives.
Q: What does the student learning experience look like in the classroom? How is this learning engaged?
A: Classes in this course combine theory with practice.? A portion of each class session is devoted to unpacking the readings assigned for that day.? These readings are carefully selected from a growing body of literature on spiritual direction.? We look at the history of spiritual direction, contemporary expressions of spiritual direction, theological underpinnings that support the practice and reflection upon one's own experience of spiritual guidance.? Students participate in triads each class sessions initially practicing responsive listening skills then once mastered the triads begin "practicing spiritual direction" on each other.? A feedback form has been devised that assists each student claim their own unique style of doing spiritual direction.? The class as a whole reflects upon their triad work being done and issues that arise in the practice are then addressed in class.? Reflection,? prayer and practical assistance is offered as part of the class.
For more info via the Graduate Catalog, visit here.
For more info about auditing this course, visit here.