From Opening Doors to Quaker Worship, a publication of the Religious Education Committee of Friends General Conference
During the past few years, a number of Friends serving on the Religious Education Committee of Fiends General Conference have discussed the importance of spiritual friendships. In their work with faith development, they have come to know and emphasize the value of sharing one’s experience of spiritual growth with one particular Friend who is also strengthening his or her faith. They have also collected important resources that describe the purpose of spiritual friendships, how to go about finding a spiritual friend, and different ways spiritual friends can work together. As an encouragement to Friends and meetings to explore spiritual friendships at a deeper level, a few guidelines are offered here.
Guidelines for Spiritual Friendship
- Spiritual friendships most commonly involve two people who invite God’s working in their lives who make an intentional commitment to hold each other in the Light, and who share with each other their experiences, doubts, ponderings, and prayer time as their spiritual lives unfold.
- Spiritual friendships can exist for any length of time, from a weekend at a workshop to a spiritual partnership lasting many years. Ideally, spiritual friends can meet face to face on a regular basis, but if circumstances don’t allow that closeness, a spiritual friendship can be conducted by means of letters, phone calls, or even e-mail! What is important is that there be an intentionality about the relationship.
- Meetings can be structured in a number of ways. Usually a session begins with a time of worship. Then one friend listens while the other shares her/his spiritual progress through the period that has elapsed between sessions. Sections from personal journaling are often shared, as well as efforts at maintaining a regular discipline or areas in which one is especially focusing. One of the purposes for sharing is to name out loud how one experiences God’s presence.
- The listener pays supportive attention to what is shared, at times reflecting back to the speaker something that is noticed. More listening than reflecting usually takes place. It is important to remember that this is not a co-counseling or therapy session, but a time to allow God into the relationship.
- After a set period of time, the roles are reversed. Silent worship should conclude the session. Many friends allow a time for informal sharing about non-spiritual matters before the beginning or at the end of the session.
- Spiritual friends may choose to engage in a planned discipline between meetings, such as meditating or praying at the same time each day, journaling, reading a predetermined passage or book, or fasting. These shared practices can deepen the spiritual relationship between friends by serving as a constant reminder of each other’s commitment and support.
- Spiritual friendship, though it may arise between individuals who have a casual relationship, is a commitment that requires hard work and a level of trust that takes time to build. Yet if the commitment is strong, having a spiritual friendship is one of the best ways to nurture personal faith development.Return to Spiritual Disciplines