'Gateways to God': Spiritual Direction training for such a time as this
June 29, 2022
Gateways to God, the long-standing training program in Missional Spiritual Direction, is taking applications now for the 2022-24 cohort.
The retreat-format program is held at Rolling Ridge Retreat and Conference Center in North Andover, MA. The first retreat will be Sept. 19-22, 2022.
Rolling Ridge offers this definition of spiritual direction: “The art and skill of spiritual companionship, paying loving attention to God’s presence and invitations within the everyday events and rhythms of our lives.”
Instructor Dr. Heidi Miller talked about why this may be the right moment for people to consider joining Gateways.
“For such a time as this … I think people are asking the question, ‘Is this all there is to ministry?’ with COVID and with everything going on … and Gateways says, ‘There's more,’” Dr. Miller said.
“There's more richness to be discovered, and you don't need to do this alone, and, furthermore, there is a well of God's mercy and grace, and access to that — in communal ways and individual ways — that we can learn, we can practice, and we can grow in.
“And furthermore, I can actually use that in listening to another [person], or a congregation, or a larger group of people.”
Dr. Miller said the current program builds on the past and goes further to ask: “How is the spiritually formative work, the building-block work of spiritual formation, connecting outwardly or being sent out?”
Dr. Miller has taken over as program leader from her mother, Gateways founder Dr. Wendy Miller.
Rev. Beth Garnaas-Holmes, who serves as one of the retreat leaders, said Heidi Miller has an understanding of that role of listener.
“Heidi brings a very deep awareness and appreciation for all of the many venues in which we are called to listen,” Rev. Garnaas-Holmes said. “So, there is a there's an appreciation for the traditional one-on-one relationship over a period of time that someone would have with a spiritual director. But there's also an appreciation for those moments when we find ourselves in the airport or at the grocery store or after choir practice at church, or wherever, where we can drop into a listening space with people if we're aware that it's happening so that's missional spiritual direction … Heidi brings that.”
There are no specific educational requirements for Gateways, which is open to laity and clergy. So, who should consider joining the Gateways cohort?
Rev. Garnaas-Holmes said those “listeners” certainly might want to consider Gateways. “Anyone who finds themselves listening with people. You know, there are people who other people are just drawn to …,” she said.
Beyond that, she said, “anyone who is longing for a deeper relationship with God in their lives is someone who would find a home in Gateways and a community to grow in.”
Rev. Garnaas-Holmes said she does see a real benefit for clergy:
“… pastors are always overloaded, but right now, especially, they are, and I think that the personal deepening that they would gain through this community, the support that they would get, and the learning that they would receive to help others do the same — that would benefit pastors immensely,” she said.
“We've had many pastors go through the program,” Rev. Garnaas-Holmes.
One of them is Pastor Jackie Trotter Dove, now retired. She went through Gateways training a few years ago and said that even as a busy clergyperson the program was doable.
“I remember when I went through Gateways, I never felt as if I was doing something that wasn't nurturing for me,” she said.
“In fact, most of us — and I’m not only speaking for myself, but I know in my small group — we couldn't wait to get [to the retreats], because we know that we're going to be fed as well as learn, and then we're going to be with persons around us who are supportive,” she said. “It's just a tremendous opportunity for spiritual growth.”