By Dr. Rosyln “Roz” G. Weiner
Question: I know that you do individual and group spiritual direction. But I’m a bit puzzled as to why you focus so much on group work. I only do individual work. Why are you so drawn to groups?
Answer: I feel privileged to sit one-on-one with people. It is a very spacious opportunity to accompany another person seeking to connect with God, or however my directee names and experiences the divine source. There is no defined structure, only a starting time and an ending time. I like that work very much. It’s not that I like group spiritual direction more, but I feel a sacred call to encourage people to witness each other; especially people who are not necessarily inclined to cultivate their capacity to witness other persons into deep spiritual discernment.
I suspect that my membership in the Jewish community heightens my response to the call. Judaism, as I experience it, celebrates communal engagement. We are certainly invited to speak one-on-one with God if we choose. But our formal liturgy contains some prayers that can only be said when a group of at least 10 are gathered together for prayer. Throughout the liturgy and the Hebrew Bible there are opportunities to notice how important it is for us to accompany the other, to provide for the other, to notice the other, and to be noticed. For me, that is what is at the heart of group spiritual direction.
After being trained as a spiritual director, I did begin seeing people one-on-one. A son was attending rabbinical school; my daughter was earning a master’s degree in Jewish education and studying alongside men and women who were preparing to be ordained as rabbis and cantors. I became curious about how clergy-to-be cultivate their own spirits. I was, also, at that time, fully engaged in my own clinical practice as a psychologist.
Questions stirred in me about the emotional/spiritual life of clergy as I watched my son and my daughter grow in their self-defined callings. I wondered if clergy might find themselves unexpectedly in silos isolated from others — without the opportunity to speak frankly about their own spiritual doubts, joys, and qualms. I was curious as to whether they could provide some support to each other. It seemed to me that in the right structure, with appropriate confidential boundaries, trust could be cultivated, and sharing could occur. I knew that rabbis, cantors or priests, pastors, and ministers could seek out individual direction, but I imagined that something quite powerful could occur, if with guidance, they could feel at home sharing with each other.
My attempts to do group work could have failed; my hypothesis about their potential power could have been disproven. However, that was not the case! I have observed that the more times people meet, the deeper they go spiritually and the more they share about their spiritual experiences and discoveries. It’s almost like an exponential effect. I still welcome individuals to my sitting room, my Zoom screen, or my yard. My efforts at accompaniment are genuine and heart-felt. But, as the requests for group spiritual direction increase and new groups commence, my heart overfills with gratitude.
 I am distinguishing accompaniment from formation.
This is your chance to ask questions about the practice and process of group spiritual direction and get answers from respected author and spiritual director Dr. Roslyn “Roz” G. Weiner.
SDI Press published Roslyn’s book Seeking in the Company of Others: The Wisdom of Group Spiritual Direction in late 2021. Soon afterward, Roz led an SDI webinar series about GSD.
The response to both the book and the webinar series has been lively and the conversation fruitful. So, we thought we would share your good questions and Roz’s wisdom with all the SDI community through this column, which will appear monthly in our SDI Stories section of our website.
Please email us your questions here, and Roz will offer her responses to one or two queries in this column on a monthly basis.
Dr. Roslyn G. Weiner, PhD, STM is the author of the new book from SDI Press, “Seeking in the Company of Others – The Wisdom of Group Spiritual Direction.” She is a seasoned spiritual director and psychologist, with 18 years of experience facilitating groups in spiritual direction. She earned a PhD in psychology from Yale University and an STM degree from the School of Theology, Boston University.