Transforming the communities of Essex & East London through Christ’s presence

The Scriptures gives us the model of being a spiritual companion or as it is otherwise known, a spiritual director or soul friend. Two disciples walking along the Emmaus Road when Jesus comes and joins them in their journey. As we journey in Christian discipleship, many people find that having a ‘companion on the road’ can help them to listen and notice where God is leading. Such a spiritual companion or director acts as a ‘life servant’  not a ‘life fixer’ to the other.

In order to resource this ministry, the Diocese of Chelmsford and the ecumenical coordinating group for spiritual direction offer two courses.

View the latest course modules

The Essex and East London Course

The Essex and East London Course  in Spiritual Direction is an ecumenical course for mature Christians. It is a five term course with twenty participants and a core group of six. These twenty six people are from different strands of Christianity, both lay and ordained.

The present core group come from the Baptist and Anglican churches. The course has been running, with different core groups, for over thirty years with the aim of developing Christian souls to the point where they can act as Spiritual Directors and help others discern where the Holy Spirit is leading them. The course aims to cover all areas of spirituality and is experiential, requiring a high degree of openness and willingness to share.

person reading the bible

The Next Course in Spiritual Direction

An experiential learning opportunity for those who listen and pray with others at The Chelmsford Diocesan House of Retreat, Pleshey, Essex.

Spiritual Direction is a one-to-one ministry of prayer and listening. The Course in Spiritual Direction is an ecumenical one, sponsored by the Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops of the diocese, which has been adjusted and developed over the years. It is open to lay and ordained Christians of all traditions. It takes place at the Retreat House in Pleshey, a quiet place, offering space for prayerful reflection and spiritual renewal.

The Aim of the Course is to provide an opportunity for course members to grow in spirituality and personal development. Through shared experience, participants will be challenged to a deeper awareness and effectiveness as they help others discover what God is doing in their lives.

The Course Members will be a group of up to twenty people who are engaged in one-to-one prayer or listening. They will be open to growth, willing to share at a deep level and ready to accept supervision. They should have a mature faith, be emotionally stable and be prepared to bring responsible and wholehearted commitment to the Course.

Applications for the next course in Spiritual Direction are now invited. For all enquiries & requests for an application form please contact our course administrator Valerie Thompson. The aim of the selection process is to discern whether the course is appropriate for the candidate at this time. Courses start in September and run for eighteen months. They also include three residential periods. Course Days are usually on the first Thursday of each month. The day begins at 9.30 am and ends at 4.00 pm

Methodology Prayer, reflection, discussion and discernment will be used alongside input and practical exercises in this experiential course.

The course will explore:

  • The nature of Spiritual Direction
  • Individual faith journeys and spiritual pilgrimage
  • Listening skills
  • Images of God
  • Different traditions of spirituality
  • The interface between spirituality, gender, personality and human development
  • The practical skills needed in Spiritual Direction

The course is planned and facilitated by a Core Group who bring the experience of having previously participated in the course. More information is available on the Course in Spiritual Direction website.

The present course fees are £1200 but are under revue. Ministerial grants may apply. Fees include all accommodation, food and refreshments. If you have any questions these can be discussed confidentially with the Course Administrator, Valerie Thompson

Consultants to the Core Group: 

Visitor The Revd Canon Philip Banks Precentor at Bury St Edmunds Cathedral

The Revd Ann Coleman Spiritual Direction Coordinator Chelmsford Diocese and Trustee of the London Centre for Spiritual Direction.

study group

The Chelmsford Diocese Modular Course in Spiritual Companionship  

The context for this Course, offered by the Diocese of Chelmsford, is the outworking of Transforming Presence. The Course is an emerging reality desiring to act in harmony with the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. It seeks to go where the Spirit is leading and also to be set within accountability to the Bishop of the Diocese and the Diocesan Vision, ‘Transforming Presence’.

The Course is:

  • Radical because it aims to encourage all Christian disciples to live out their core baptismal vocation to ‘walk alongside’ others in their faith journey through a ministry of spiritual companionship.
  • Empowering because the pedagogy it uses is about creating a secure space to take people into the deep waters of faith without being ‘overwhelmed’ to enable transformation and growth.
  • Liberating because it seeks to foster missionary discipleship as central to the baptismal vocation of all. It opens up possibilities for a ministry of spiritual companionship which can be offered in various different contexts
  • Affirming because it recognises, values and develops the pastoral skills students are evidencing

 Inherent Values

  • Modelling the dynamic interpersonal action which reflects the life of the Holy Trinity 
  • Modelling the hospitality which lies at the heart of Christian spiritual companionship
  • Modelling kingdom values through which we are formed into the likeness of Christ as individuals  and as His Body on earth
  • Increasing spiritual engagement in the Diocese by ‘placing a priority on becoming a people of prayer, whose daily lives are formed and punctuated by our relationship with God in Jesus Christ’ 
  • Developing discipleship and prayer life so that the Holy Spirit may move people into many new directions and enriched vocations through catching the culture of the Course
  • Deploying the resources we have ( financial and plant)  to the very best effect so that the Gospel of Christ can be proclaimed even more effectively

Embedded Knowledge

  • To grow in integrity of life through prayer 
  • To learn discernment through listening and the modelling of good practice
  • Being with God in prayer in order to accompany others in their faith journey 
  • To develop  godly wisdom (sapientia)
  • To integrate spiritual direction within the Church’s response to the Missio Dei and to learn how this ministry relates to evangelism


  • Deep and attentive listening
  • Discernment and godly wisdom
  • Humility 
  • Hospitality
  • Confidentiality: the ability to keep one’s own counsel

Desired Transformation

  • To empower Christian disciples to ‘walk alongside others in their faith journey’
  • To liberate Christian disciples to discover their gifts of spiritual companionship through the grace of God and the guiding of the Holy Spirit
  • To empower spiritual companions in a prophetic ministry which will seek to transform society
  • To be formed in order to be sent to be a transforming presence in each community

The Hermeneutical Tools
The Course uses the Hermeneutic of Juxtaposition in the way it draws on the Scriptures and the Christian tradition to develop inherent values, embedded knowledge, skills and transformational outcomes. 

Each module session includes some input, some reflective group exercises and some personal work within the context of prayer.

Individual modules can be undertaken to enhance the call to Christian discipleship. They can also be grouped together to provide formation as a spiritual companion in a wider context. Additionally they can be used as CPD for clergy or lay disciples already offering spiritual direction. 

To book a place or to get further information about any of the modules listed below, please contact Revd Ann Coleman by email or call 01277 821366.

The next Modules are:

Spiritual Companionship and the Scriptures

The ministry of spiritual companionship is rooted in the Scriptures and the Christian tradition.

One key exemplar for the relationship in spiritual direction is the story of the Emmaus Road.

As we respond to Christ’s call to follow Him, and we as we grow to become more Christ- like we need the prayer and encouragement of fellow ‘followers in the Way’.

This 5 Session Module will enable us to explore some of the riches of the Scriptures which may resource our ministry as spiritual companions.

In the ministry of spiritual companionship we often use open questions which allow individuals to ‘name’ their thoughts and feelings, their hopes and fear.

Through looking at some of the questions Jesus asked his disciples( questions which were often very direct),  we will:

  • Reflect on some the significant themes and metaphors within the Scriptures both in the Old and New Testaments
  • Ponder on the ministry of Jesus and his relationships with individuals
  • Think about the different ways in which we and others relate to God
  • Look at the ways in which Christian disciples before us have drawn on the Scriptures in their prayer and faith journey.

Session One: ‘For whom are you looking?’( John 18:4)

Session Two: ‘Who do you say that I am?’ (Mark 8:29)

Session Three: ‘Who touched me?’ ( Mark 5:31) 

Session Four: ‘Do you believe this?’( John 11:26)

Session Five: ‘Do you want to be healed?’ (John 5:6)

Each session will begin and end with a time of prayer. It will include some group discussion and reflection, some input, some small group work and some personal reflection.

Where: Diocese offices in New St ( if restrictions return , the course will move back onto zoom)
When: Tuesdays - 28 September, 5th, 12th, 19th and 26th October
Time:  6pm-8pm
Cost:  £30 for the whole course, including all the resources

For further information or to book a palace contact Ann Coleman by email or call 01277 821366.

Further Modules

We are also hoping to hold a day on Spiritual companionship/Direction and the Creative Arts if we have enough participants

For more information please contact Ann Coleman
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