The Studion School for Spiritual Direction launched its third cohort of students this week with participants joining from locations across western Canada, including Vancouver, Kelowna, Lethbridge, Cochrane and Warman, Saskatchewan, as well as a number in the Edmonton area.
COVID-19 restrictions meant the normal in-person gathering at Star of the North Retreat Centre was out of the question. Instead, 12 participants met their teachers and each other for the first time, online. Zoom meetings began on Sunday evening, January 10, and carried on all day Monday and Tuesday.
The purpose of these first sessions is to provide an introduction to the program and to spiritual direction in general, but also to take first steps to develop a learning community that will journey together for two years of discovery and spiritual formation. Doing that on Zoom seemed daunting but worked better than expected.
One participant, the Rev. Andreas Sigrist of St. Mary and St. George’s Anglican Church in Jasper, said, “I was very much looking forward to the time at the Star of the North, so I was disappointed when I heard the first module would be on Zoom. However, the facilitators were intentional and thoughtful, making the best of this situation. Everyone was willing to give of themselves. The group put a huge effort into being present to the degree it can be possible over Zoom. This allowed for deep connections. Despite Zoom, I experienced something I yearn for very much: being known. I pray that our church families increasingly become places like that, where we grow closer with God, ourselves, and each other.”
The Studion is a certificate program, administered through The King’s University, which prepares participants to companion others seeking to deepen their relationship with God. It includes a considerable amount of time spent in retreat, praying through the themes of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Training sessions cover a range of topics taught by Studion facilitators, or by guest speakers, several of whom are on faculty at King’s. A practicum component allows participants to put their training into action, meeting with volunteer ‘directees’ in their second year. Several of these volunteers in 2020 came from parishes throughout the Diocese of Edmonton.
Studion facilitators include the Rev. Ron Klok, Dr. Heather Cowie, Julianne Gilchrist, and the Rev. Deacon Shelly King of the Diocese of Edmonton.