Soul Friend: Spiritual Direction in the Modern World by Kenneth Leech
Soul Friend: Spiritual Direction in the Modern World Kenneth Leech, Morehouse Publishing: Harrisburg, PA. 2001
Kenneth Leech is M.B. Reckitt Urban Fellow at Saint Botolph’s Church, Aldgate London. He is an Anglican priest, community theologian, and author of many highly acclaimed books including True Prayer.
The purpose of the book is to provide some nourishment for the important ministry of spiritual direction by drawing on the teaching of the great spiritual guides and to try to help those who are themselves seeking direction on the spiritual way, and who wish to know more about the Christian tradition of prayer.
The six chapters include: Spirituality and the present climate; Spiritual direction in the Christian tradition; Direction, counseling and therapy; Prayer and the Christian spiritual tradition; The practice of the life of prayer; and Toward a prophetic understanding of spiritual direction.
The strength of this work rests in the thorough and academic presentation of spiritual direction. Because of its academic nature it is not as helpful to read devotionally. It could easily be used as a 200 level discourse on the topic in a graduate level curriculum.
The sections on prayer were very helpful in the way it anchored prayer and spiritual direction. A minor annoyance was the author’s interchanging use of masculine and feminine references to priests.
This book has helped me deepen my understanding of spiritual direction and how it is similar and different from counseling, coaching and discipleship. The people helping fields of Counseling, Coaching and Discipleship can be both functions and offices in ministry, whereas spiritual direction seems to be a function that happens within those offices.
Direction appears to be a spiritual art form rather than a pastoral technique which can be mastered. “Spiritual direction is a personal ministry which takes place within a corporate framework, a framework of sacrament, discipleship and social action. It takes place within a context of theological reflection and social struggle.” (xviii)
I would like to consider more deeply the qualities of a good director: Knowledge, especially of spiritual theology and psychology; prudence and good judgment; experience, especially with prayer; and holiness. (page 70)
“The ministry of spiritual direction grows from a life of prayer, discipleship and the struggle for holiness. It is a by-product of that life, and only makes sense with it. Spiritual direction must be reclaimed in the service of the Kingdom of God.” (Introduction to revised edition xviii-xix)