In this issue
A letter to a dear spiritual friend
Lynne Booker writes to Etty Hillesum
The outward and the physical
Edwin Salter calls for a wider perspective
Pastoral supervision for clergy and pastoral workers: a personal perspective
Peter Gubi explores his work as a pastoral supervisor
Shaping pastoral supervision (free article)
Gill Carding reflects on the work of the Association for Pastoral Supervision and Education
Can Christian spiritual development assist the personal development and resourcing of effective mainstream counsellors?
Christopher Corbet asks important questions about the impact of Christian spiritual development on counsellors
Welcome from the editor
Gratitude is a very powerful spiritual practice (practised in Naikan therapy, a Japanese form of psychotherapy). It encourages an outward focus: to thank the people who have accompanied us, challenged us, kept us going through difficult times. How best to express our gratitude to our spiritual benefactors? Our spiritual benefactors include the people who have influenced us, inspired us, encouraged us. They may be people we have met or people whose teachings and writings have been important to us. In the Buddhist practice of loving kindness meditation, the ‘benefactor’ is usually recommended as the first category used during ‘metta’ meditation. The practitioner remembers beings who have supported and inspired them during their life. It is a good place to begin.
Writing ‘unsent’ letters can be very therapeutic and is often suggested in various forms of counselling and therapy. I first stumbled upon Etty Hillesum in a bookshop in Prague, when I lived there for a short time while teaching English. Her diary entries and heartfelt letters kept me company through a very cold Prague winter and a challenging time of my life. I appreciate Lynne Booker’s honest tribute to Etty Hillesum, who lived during a turbulent time and whose writing covers the period 1941–1943 and who faced extraordinary suffering. Eva Hoffman wrote (in the preface to the diaries and letters of Etty Hillesum): ‘Etty never lost her mercurial responsiveness even as she began to describe states we are accustomed to identify as religious: gratitude for all that was given to her, a profound self-acceptance and acceptance of others and a conviction, not of any specific set of meanings, but of meaningfulness itself – of the inward beauty and rightness of life.’1
Recently, I’ve felt I have become too set in my ways and started attending a dance class. It requires effort to get there on a Monday evening, but I do feel better for it. Edwin Salter’s article encourages us to step out of our comfort zones, to stretch ourselves in new ways. His exercises offer a welcome challenge and inspiration for change.
Supervision is an integral part of training to be a psychotherapist or counsellor. The relationship between supervisor and supervisee is key. How to find the right balance between support and challenge? In pastoral supervision, the element of spirituality is more overt. I sometimes think that supervision feels a bit like how I would imagine confession to be. Jeffrey A Kottler and Jon Carlson describe terrible supervision as one of the least helpful experiences along the way to becoming a master therapist: ‘Many of our other supervisory relationships were not safe enough for us to talk about what was really bothering us most. We had to be careful what we revealed, hide our feelings of ineptitude, and feed the supervisors what they wanted to hear.’2 Finding the best supervisor to accompany us in our work is one of the most important challenges of our professional lives. In this issue, Peter Gubi explores his approach to his work as a pastoral supervisor. Gill Carding describes the work of the Association for Pastoral Supervision and Education (APSE). She looks at the evolution of the organisation, its features, the contexts in which it works and the future. Organisations such as APSE can offer guidance to members of the ministry looking for support in their work.
Christopher Corbet asks important questions about the relationship between our spiritual beliefs and our work and training as counsellors. His research focuses on the impact of Christian spiritual development and how this influences students in their choice of career and their client work.
I would like to express my gratitude to outgoing Chair, Melody Cranbourne- Rosser, who has accompanied me on my journey as the editor of Thresholds. It has been a pleasure to work with and to learn from her over the past couple of years. I wish Melody well with her future plans and am glad she will remain involved in the Executive of BACP Spirituality.
1. Hillesum E. An interrupted life: the diaries and letters of Etty Hillesum 1941–43. London: Persephone Books Ltd; 1999.
2. Kottler JA, Carlson J. On being a master therapist: practicing what you preach. Hoboken NJ: Wiley; 2014.