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 from September 2019 - April 2021 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. Please apply by 15 March 2019. 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 Big Life questions

This Module looks at the ‘big life questions’ through the lens of being a spiritual companion. The undergirding question is whether we are life fixers or life servants. The module weaves together some input, some personal reflection and some small group discussion and some exercises in deep listening and discernment. Each session begins and ends with a time of prayer.

This module will challenge us to draw on our experiences over the past year and how they relate to the way people are asking these ‘Big Life questions’ in our current context.

The materials for each session will be send out via email. Our new library will also be available, and books can be sent via post.

Where: Hosted on Zoom
When: Tuesdays January 12th,19th, 26th and February 2nd and 9th
Time:  6pm-8pm
Cost:  £20 for the whole course, including  all the resources

This module is part of a suite of modules which can either be taken as 'stand alone'  modules or built into a whole course. The course is recognised by the Diocese of Chelmsford as one of their Ministry courses.

Spiritual Companionship and the Scriptures

Where: St John's Church Stratford
When: Thursdays 9th, 16th and 23rd January 2020 and the.6th  and 13th February 2020
Time:  3pm-5pm
Cost:  £30 for the whole course, including  all the resources


  • Thursday 9 January 2020.
  • Thursday 18 January 2020.
  • Thursday 23 February 2020.
  • Thursday 6 February 2020.
  • Thursday 13 February 2020.

Spiritual Companionship and the Christian Tradition

Time: Each session from 6.00 pm - 8.00 pm.
Venue: The Diocesan Offices in New St Chelmsford
Cost: £30 for whole module ( includes all ) resources


  • Tuesday 21 January 2020.
  • Tuesday 28 January 2020.
  • Tuesday 4 February 2020.
  • Tuesday 18 February 2020.
  • Tuesday 25 February 2020.
  • Tuesday 3 March 2020.

Spiritual Direction as Cutting Edge Ministry.

Facilitator: The Revd Canon Imogen Nay. Canon for Evangelism and Discipleship at Chelmsford Cathedral
Venue: The Diocesan Office, New St. Chelmsford
Cost: £20 for whole module


  • Thursday 6 February 2020; 2.00 pm - 4.00 pm.
  • Thursday 11 February 2020; 10.00 am - 12.30 pm.

A session to explore together the missional opportunities of Spiritual Direction looking at the contemporary interest in ‘life coaching’ among 17-25 year olds. This session will involve the participants doing most of the reflecting, giving people the space and resource to think creatively about how their ministry could become more missional.

Spiritual Evelyn Underhill: Inspiring Spiritual Direction in her time and ours.

Time: Each session from 6.00 pm - 8.00 pm
Facilitator: Mrs Val Thompson. Spiritual Director and tutor on both the Pleshey Course and Spiritual Companionship Course. Evelyn Underhill has been an ongoing topic of research for Val.
Venue: The Diocesan Office, New St. Chelmsford
Cost: £20 for whole module


  • Tuesday 10 March 2020.
  • Tuesday17 March 2020.
  • Tuesday 24 March 2020.
  • Tuesday 31 March 2020.

Evelyn Underhill, a lay theologian and spiritual master (1875-1941) stated that the Retreat House at Pleshey was her favourite place.  She wrote in a journal ‘When I grow up I should like to be an author because you can influence people more widely by books than by pictures.’ She certainly did write books, 39 of them and more than 350 articles, translations and biographical works related to mysticism and religion. This four week module will look at the life of Underhill and her own spiritual development.  We will investigate how Underhill influenced others in her own time before exploring just how we can use her work in our own lives; and in how we accompany others on their own life journey.

Session Titles

Session 1:     Mysticism

Session 2 :    God as the centre of life.

Session 3:     Hospitality at the heart

Session 4:     Practice of spiritual direction

‘Story Telling. Story Weaving. Story Keeping’: The art of Spiritual Direction

Time: Each session from 6.00 pm - 8.00 pm
Facilitator: The Revd Ann Coleman : Chair of Spiritual Direction Coordinating Group and Bishop of Chelmsford’s Adviser on Spiritual Direction
Venue: The Diocesan Office, New St. Chelmsford
Cost: £20 for whole module


  • Tuesday 2 June 2020.
  • Tuesday 9 June 2020.
  • Tuesday 16 June 2020.
  • Tuesday 21 June 2020.

The Scriptures are rich with many layered stories. As we read and reflect on them, we discover ways in which they resonate with our story  and those of the communities in which we share. As spiritual companions we are called to listen in depth as others tell their story. We help them to  notice the way in which the threads of the foundational stories of our faith are woven with the strands of our lives. But Scriptural stories can also challenge, as we find in the parables Jesus told. Contemporary Biblical scholarship reminds us that these parables were often shocking to his hearers and difficult to interpret. When we explore the Gospels we see a parabolic quality in the ministry of Jesus which is always surprising and draws us to reflect ever deeper on our own encounters with God. This module invites us to do just that!

Session One:        Mustard seeds and Mission: Jesus turns the familiar upside down and changes the perspective.  He invites us to do the same.

Session Two:        ‘Remember when….’. how does memory shape individual and communal stories?

Session Three:      Stories: the weaving of  human and divine- the work of spiritual companionship? 

Session Four:       Stories can reveal and stories can conceal: The light of Christ illuminates all things.

Further Modules

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

Other Events

A Symposium on the place of Spiritual Direction/ Companionship in our present context Saturday 3 October 2020 St Cedd’s Hall Chapter House of Chelmsford Cathedral 10am-3.30pm (details to follow).

For more information please contact Ann Coleman
Is there anything wrong with this page?