I am now roughly halfway through my training to become a spiritual director. I am trying to pick up at least one book a month, not assigned, to round out my training. Over the past few months, I have read books about soul care/spiritual direction to children, an Evangelical intro to Ignatian spiritual direction, a memoir of Howard Thurman, and a collection of his sermons, and a book on prayer. The point of these various looks is to expand my vision of what spiritual direction is and to gain insight by understanding how others have practiced spiritual direction.
Barbara Peacock is writing about spiritual direction from the African American Church perspective. It is both not widely known in the Black church but also not unknown. (One of my classmates is AME.) Spiritual direction books are often split between providing some direction to the reader and describing features of direction more generally. Soul Care in the African American Practice uses mini-biographies as a framing for different soul care practices. There are ten profiles of well known and less well-known figures in the Black church and how their lives illustrated various spiritual practices that either they taught on or exemplified. The practices include Lectio Divina, rest, prayer in suffering, contemplation, etc.
Part of what is helpful in most Black church writing is the connection of the spiritual life to practical experience. The history of the Black church and of the Black experience in the United States is part of what it means to be a Black Christian. Dr Peacock is no different.
Kellemen and Edwards wrote, “If spiritually famished African Americans were going to convert to Christianity, then they had to convert on the basis of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection as revealed in the Bible, not on the basis of Christianity revealed in the lifestyles of the Christians they knew.”21 African Americans who depended solely on the spirituality of their slave masters were apt to be deceived and confused.
I think that a lot of White readers may not pick up books like this that are written for particular communities. But it is exactly in these types of particular books that I have found that I can find the clarity of my own convictions as well see my own blindspots and assumptions revealed. I think Dr Peacock ends the book with the right note:
Do prayer and spiritual direction in the African American faith community look different from prayer, spiritual direction, and soul care in any other faith context? The answer to this question is twofold: no as it relates to the divine inclusivity of spirituality, and yes in the sense that the African American culture, just like any other culture, is experientially unique…effective prayer and spiritual direction are works of the Spirit, and ethnicity is not a determining factor in how the Spirit desires to operate.