When I arrived in New York I knew no-one and had nothing to do! Apart that is from the one thing I had registered for in advance, a Really Good Idea, namely to take the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. This involves a daily hour of prayer practices and a weekly meeting with a spiritual director, so I saw at least one friendly face every week, someone who knew I existed in the city, and I had at least one activity as a basis for my daily timetable. The rest was all about getting out there, asking and looking and pushing doors and trying this and that and every sort of other: being courageous in my exploration and coping with being alone a lot of the time.
One of my first searches was to find fellow spiritual directors to work with. At the London Centre for Spiritual Direction, where I trained, there are events, networking activities and peer supervision groups; members come from all the churches, and it is easy to find and easy to join.
New York had nothing.
If I ever met a spiritual director it was by chance (Mardi Gras party at St Barts!) and pretty rare and random; the typical response when I asked at a church was 'we don't offer that here' or 'it is really difficult to find a director/ to find directees'. Not even the diocesan websites mention it. The most vibrancy in spiritual direction here is in the Jesuit Catholic churches, like where I joined the Ignatian programme (which was wonderful!), but they did not have contact with any other churches and did not invite me to join any of their peer groups. And there seemed to be absolutely no-one who crossed the denominational divide.
But let me make this long story short.
I worked jolly hard at creating a life in this marvelous place, and little by little found friends, activities and lots of joy in lots of places. I met spiritual directors here and there, and all of them said the same thing: they feel isolated. I decided to make happen what I had so longed to find and what others seemed to need, and in January proposed my vision to two colleagues. Yesterday, the three of us launched the new network for spiritual directors for NYC!
It was a super successful event. Our contact list was substantial, with many names from the training programmes at General Theological Seminary (Anne Silver, one of my colleagues, runs the course there), from our personal contacts in many churches, and from retreat centres and other training programmes in and outside the city. Nearly 40 people responded, 25 of whom joined us for the launch event. Happy people, thankful people! We met at St John's in the Village on West 11th (a perfectly beautiful little place, you should look it up for their arts events!), shared our vision, invited ideas, and planned the next steps to establish this as the peer support group we all agreed we want. For encouragement, for skills and events sharing, for referrals. Just to know we are not isolated, even if we work alone. Listserve, website; a date for the next joint event. A hub, with an online presence where seekers can find us, newcomers to the city perhaps who want to find colleagues ...
So as I depart this is my legacy: the network of Spiritual Directors NYC now exists! People are impressed and so am I!! For those who needed this to happen it feels remarkable that I have created it in my short time here; for me it has been a story of grace. This was an opportunity waiting to be taken: I looked up at the tree just at the time when the fruit was ripe and ready to be picked.
(One of those apples, yes, that belong to the original theme of my blog. I'll go the Farmers' Market and snap another apple photo in illustration. And I will publish another poem, one that I wrote the first month I was here: it came out of mulling over the gospel parable of the farmer and his seeds. It is rather wordy and intense, but who is judging me apart from me?)
Contact: if you are a spiritual director and wish to join the network, or if you are interested in finding a spiritual director for yourself (or you are interested in knowing anything else that might be on offer), you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a self-creating network that has just been brought into existence, so your contact and contribution will be part of its growth. You are most welcome!