It was 14 years ago that we reviewed Show Me Your Way: The Complete Guide to Exploring Interfaith Spiritual Direction by Howard A. Addison and published by the pathfinding SkyLight Paths! We wrote then: "In our times, more and more seekers are sampling the spiritual practices of different religious traditions. As they do so, they are witnessing the dawning of a new era of interfaith tolerance and exchange. These two developments signal the expansion of interfaith spiritual direction, which Addison defines as "the interaction of your own knowledge and longings with the insights of a guide beyond your religious home."
We noted: "Spiritual direction is a long and distinguished tradition going back in Christianity to the Desert Fathers and the writings of Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and Ignatius Loyola. Rebbes in Hasidism, shaikhs in Islam, and gurus in Hinduism and Buddhism have refined the process."
We ended our review with "Interfaith spiritual direction is the wave of the future." We still feel that way (and would actually like to speed it along!). Despite the many divisions and rough patches between religions, we are convinced that spiritual directors can make a difference not only within their own traditions but across religions. This is a conviction shared by John R. Mabry, who is profiled in our Living Spiritual Teachers Project. He directs the interfaith spiritual direction certificate program at Chaplaincy Institute in Berkeley and is adjunct faculty in the pastoral ministry program at Santa Clara University. A United Church of Christ minister, he is pastor of Grace North Church in Berkeley, California.
Mabry is the editor of this new book on interfaith spiritual direction. He has gathered material on 23 faith traditions in the United States and had various spokespersons provide:
• An overview of the tradition, including central beliefs
• Methods for spiritual guidance honored by devotees
• Common spiritual problems encountered by the faithful
• Tips, techniques, and practices
• Helpful resources for further learning
It will take great patience, discipline, and creativity to deal with interfaith, blended, and independent approaches to spirituality. Just reading through the different faith traditions presented in this book, we began to imagine what a spiritual director might do with the practical ancestor reverence from an African diaspora tradition; the open canon of Mormonism; the tradition of impermanence in Buddhism; the importance of sacred sites in Native American spirituality; the Jains' code of behavior; and the emphasis of tikun olam in Judaism.
And there is definitely a need for this kind of spiritual companioning. Consider those beginning interfaith marriages or the many students, patients, and institutionalized persons who could benefit from talking to chaplains with interfaith training and experience. At the same time, large numbers of people today say they are not affiliated with any one religious community and yet they are on a spiritual quest. They welcome spiritual guidance from professionals training in many traditions.
More and more adults of all ages are looking for a religion or spiritual path that speak authentically to their lives, is responsive to the messes and miseries of our times, and opens the door to a personal experience of the divine. Mysticism is alive and well, and resources from a variety of wisdom traditions are available to all. In face of these exciting inner adventures, spiritual directors can expect a surge of interest in interfaith counsel. Spiritual Guidance Across Religions affirms these pathways and provides a much-needed wake-up call to seminaries and other educators in this field.