The Annunciation Trust

to help you discover the God you already know

Holding Discerning Space

Following the ‘Holding Space’ programme in 2021, Rachel and Nick are offering ‘Holding Discerning Space’ in June 2022. 

We use the term ‘Holding space’ as a way of describing a part of what we ‘do’ when we meet with someone as a spiritual director.  This space has at its heart the intention to be centred on the Divine. Continual discernment is needed to maintain this. 

But how do we understand discernment and how do we hold a discerning stance?

In these three sessions, we will explore these questions to gain greater clarity about how we can enable the formation of spiritual directors in a way that truly reflects the nature of spiritual direction itself.

The sessions are aimed at those who are involved in the formation of spiritual directors or who are considering setting up courses. It is not necessary for participants to have attended ‘Holding Space’.

During our time together participants will be encouraged to reflect on their own experience of receiving direction and training as well as sharing their wisdom and experience of facilitating formation programmes.  

Our aim is for participants to gain insights on the discerning stance needed by a formation team, the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of holding the stance, and so be beneficial for their own formation programmes.

The sessions will be facilitated on Zoom by Nick Helm and Rachel Overton.

Rachel and Nick have long experience of spiritual direction and the formation of spiritual directors and a shared passion in effective processes of spiritual director formation that are congruent with the nature of the ministry.

Nick’s website

Rachel’s website

The cost for the three sessions is £100.00

Book a place here: 

Clemency Burton-Hill

I quoted Clemency Burton-Hill from her excellent book ‘Another Year of Wonder’ in a recent post entitled ‘Year of Wonder’ [the title of her previous book]. In it I quoted some lovely words of hers for the beginning of the year. Both her books offer a piece of classical music, together with a short introduction, for every day of the year. For me they’ve become treasured spiritual resources. So much so that I have to quote her again. Recently she introduced a piece of music in the following way:

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Our Temptations

We are each called to incarnate some aspect[s] of God in our life, that is our calling, our vocation. It will be what brings us fully alive as a son or daughter of God.  Moreover whatever we incarnate of God, being ‘of God’, will be eternal.  It will be at least part of what of us exists beyond death.

Often we will be able to identify the moment when we recognised this vocation, knew what it is that we’re called to incarnate. Jesus had one such a moment at, or just after, His baptism by John in the river Jordan.

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Spiritual Conversations

I’ve been blessed with two very good spiritual directors over the years, but I struggled when the last one died. It was probably not a bad idea to have a break for a while, but finding a new one, someone who would encourage, stimulate and challenge me spiritually, proved depressingly difficult.  Then, one evening, sitting smoking my pipe in my shed I was listening to a podcast in which the American poet Mary Oliver was being interviewed. I was gripped, listening to Mary talk about her life & her poetry. ‘That’s what I’m looking for” I thought “I’m looking for spiritual conversations not a spiritual director.”

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In the Beginning

I’ve become a grateful fan of Clemency Burton-Hill and her book ‘Year of Wonder: Classical Music for Everyday’ ever since I bought a copy several years ago. In it she offers a piece of music for every day of the year, and a brief commentary that helps to open up the piece chosen. Linked with her playlist on Spotify, its been an important part of my daily prayer ever since, introducing me to music much of which was not familiar to me. God speaks powerfully through music.

Imagine then, my delight with the publication of a second volume this year ‘Another Year of Wonder’ which I eagerly acquired. Her choice for January 1st was a piece by J.S. Bach and in her commentary she writes:

“What a thing it is, [at the beginning of the year] to embark on an entire new journey around the sun. Simultaneously the most normal and predictable thing in the world, yet, if you really think about it, kind of a miracle”.  

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Christmas is coming

The culmination of Advent with the coming of Christmas calls us once again to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

John’s Gospel talks of Jesus existing with God from the beginning, before being incarnated as a human being, and of then returning to be with God after His death & resurrection.

This is the pattern not only for Jesus but for every human being. 

We each come from God and at our birth enter into this world carrying with us ‘memories ‘ of the Home whence we came.

We are each called, as Jesus was, to incarnate some aspect[s]of God into our world: it is our vocation, our calling. It’s almost certainly not something overtly religious, and it may be something you consider quite ordinary, but its what, deep down, you know you are meant to do and become, and it is what brings you fully alive.

There needs to be discernment to avoid the mis-use of our vocation. We will find ourselves tempted to do so as Jesus was.

Whatever we incarnate of God, being ‘of God’,must therefore transcend death. It is what we take back Home to God, as gift, when we die.

Its not enough simply to celebrate God’s incarnation in Jesus this Christmas. As Evelyn Underhill wrote “The Eternal Birth must take place in you.” The challenge is to be open to God incarnating Godself in our own lives, in whatever particular way we are called to.

An Advent Tale

A small village nestled high up in the mountains had developed over the centuries a series of traditions by which they marked Advent every year.

All the men in the village used to dress up as shepherds and bring symbols of their trades to the little village church, as gifts for the Christ-child. The gifts were then distributed beyond the village, to people in need.

Similarly all the women dressed up as midwives and brought gifts to the church, appropriate for a young child, which were distributed in the same way.

All the young people, on finishing their education set out on a journey, as if following a star, to places well beyond the village to learn of different cultures, and they returned bringing new wisdom.

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A retreat day for Advent

Saturday 11th December 2021 OR Wednesday 15th December 2021

10am to 4pm

O Wisdom, proceeding from the Most High,
filling all the world and ordering all things
with strength and gentleness:
Come and teach us the way of truth.

In the Old Testament, we read that Wisdom was ‘…uttered by the mouth of the Most High..’ (Ecclesiasticus 24:3). Ideas around ‘Wisdom’ and the ‘Word’ are closely associated and have influenced the way that the coming of Christ has been understood.

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