Understanding spiritual journeys

Posted in Faith

Sharonne Price says “time has flown” since she retired from her role as the Executive Officer of the Pastoral Relations and Mission Planning ministry centre – and no wonder! She has been kept busy with ministry supervision and counselling, working with congregations and other denominations on various ministry areas and issues, becoming accredited as a mediator, spending time with her grandchildren, and writing her new book, Soulstice: the journeys and seasons of the soul.

Drawing on Sharonne’s experiences in palliative care, chaplaincy and pastoral care, Soulstice provides unique insights to enrich readers’ spiritual lives. Sharonne talks to New Times about the thought behind the book, who it’s for, and what she hopes readers will discover.

What drew you to write Soulstice? Who do you hope to reach with this book?

Soulstice has come from my teaching work in palliative care – I worked with Southern Adelaide Pall Care Service for 16 years and then as a chaplain for nine years. In teaching, as well as in my roles in palliative care and chaplaincy, finding a way to talk about spiritual issues with religion-phobic people often presented quite a challenge.

Soulstice is written for those who want to understand the spiritual journey and those who want to build bridges to the “spiritual not religious” community. It is not an apologetic for Christianity. Rather, it tries to take down the barriers we put in people’s way when we use particular language and theological constructs that are familiar to Christians, but are often gobble-de-gook – and perhaps even frightening – to people who either know little about faith or have had bad experiences with the church.

Everyone works through the dilemmas of identity, meaning, love and trust in their lives, whatever their views about God might be. I wrote Soulstice about journeys because it is such a common metaphor for life – while it may be overused in this way, it’s a term that many can easily identify with. I worked on how to make the journey concept more helpful for people really wanting to reflect on their lives. I hope people will use the “shape” of the book to shape their conversations about a life well-lived.

Having said that, Soulstice is cradled in Christianity – I can’t write without finding expression for my deeply lived faith.

What do you hope readers will learn or discover through Soulstice?

The book is called “Soulstice” because the solstice is the perceived “turning point” of the seasons – a time of approaching change. Part of the challenge of journeying well is to perceive when the journey has changed and when we begin to move from heroism to pilgrimage, or from exploration to heroic journey, for example. That is wisdom – watching for the almost imperceptible changes that bring hope and faith to life. I hope this book will help readers to recognise these solstice periods, and our soul’s journeys.

In Soulstice, I identify four journeys of the soul – Exploration, the Heroic Journey, Pilgrimage and the Journey Home. Whilst they overlap, each of them requires a different stance from the traveller, even a different goal. Sometimes we have not thought about what sort of a journey we are taking – we just set out. There are lessons to be gleaned from the differences in the journeys and various potholes along the way.

The best thing for me is that it becomes obvious how Christian faith provides inspiration, courage, reassurance, direction, hope – the list goes on! – for every traveller.

The book provides the narrative scaffold for people to reflect on their own story; to evaluate whether their attitudes to their life are helpful or not, and identify the riches of journeying well.

What can readers expect from the style of the book?

Soulstice has several sections – each of the four journeys is discussed with lots of stories and insights. There is also an associated chapter for each journey type exploring how we can accompany others on this type of journey. At the back of the book there are questions for reflection for every traveller.

In your book you talk a lot about journeys and seasons. What do these terms mean to you? Why do you think they’re important for Christians to understand?

Working in palliative care and in counselling for many years, I have come to really appreciate that many of life’s challenges are not forever. Even death. The metaphor of a season is very powerful. It enables us to wait for renewal, or have faith in the “rain” after “drought”, to accept that everything has its time, and that strength may actually be in letting go. It also helps us see life with its redemptive rhythms and the great ecology of the spirit in human lives. For me, this has become essential to my thinking about suffering. 

As for journeys? I’ve already said a bit, but I’ve often been frustrated with Christians who have an “are we there yet?” approach to faith, or who seem to believe that the destination is all that is important.

Life is not experienced as a formula to be discovered or a set of boxes to be ticked. It’s much more gristly and sinewy that that. It requires all the things that a great journey demands – self-knowledge, courage, hope, faith, and the gifts of grace that are bestowed on us all along the way.

Blog posts written by Sharonne Price and further information about Soulstice can be found at mediacom.org.au/soulstice 

A book launch for Soulstice will be held at St Andrews Medical Centre (321 South Terrace, Adelaide) on Monday 15 May at 4.30pm. The book will be launched by Emeritus Professor Ian Maddocks, the 2013 Senior Australian of the Year and a palliative care specialist. All are welcome to attend. For more information or to RSVP, please contact MediaCom on 8371 1399.

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