Reimagining Spirituality for Today

Durham Street Methodists are behind an adventurous national Spiritual Well-being Project, that aims to help foster an environment where spirituality can flourish across the secular-religious continuum, and promote spiritual wellbeing.

The origins can be traced back to the ecumenical 1988 Women’s Spirituality Conference at Rangi Ruru in Christchurch . Thirty years on, 50 women from around Aotearoa New Zealand gathered for another Women’s Spirituality workshop in November 2018 in Christchurch, hosted by Durham Street Methodist Church in collaboration with a diverse group of women from a range of faith backgrounds to remember and consider the legacy of ’30 years of stroppy women’. Keynote speaker, Sande Ramage, hit a particular chord with the theme of Reimagining WomenSoul Beyond Religious Control. Out of this exploration of the space beyond institutional religion, emerged a number of conversations of how soulfulness might be rekindled.


What is Spirituality?

A broad, inclusive and often used definition of spirituality suggests it is an aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose, and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, others and nature, and to the significant or sacred. Spirituality is expressed through beliefs, values, traditions, and practices (Puchalski, et al., 2014).

Aotearoa New Zealand has undergone a sea-change as some have moved away from Christianity and others bring diverse religious expressions to share with us. Pakeha are also enriched by Māori spirituality and the way this is becoming woven into everyday life. This offers richness and challenge, both in our ability to talk to each other about spiritual matters and to mark the moments of life that matter to individuals and communities.

While the tragic shooting in Christchurch brought us together with an outpouring of aroha, unless this is built upon and enriched, we are likely to shrink back into an apathy about spirituality. The Religious Diversity Centre says there is a huge need to foster appreciation, understanding and deeper relationships among the religious, spiritual and secular communities of Aotearoa New Zealand. This is a task Durham Street Methodists feel called to.

“Our church was proactive in the 1980s to assist women to find a spirituality which enabled them to find God in ways not experienced in the traditional church,” said Rev Jill van de Geer (a participant in the 2018 workshop, and at that time a minister at Durham Street Methodist). “We are now in a situation in Christchurch,” continued Jill, “where we are challenged to be even more open in assisting women and men of all faiths to explore their individual spiritualities and find God in a way that enables people of all faiths or no faith to recognise God in each other.”

A small team has been taking the conversation further and initiated the Spiritual Health Project. The group includes Sande Ramage (Spiritual Care Coordinator, MidCentral District Health Board), Rosemary Neave (networker and activist), Dr Lucy D’Aeth (Public Health Specialist, Canterbury District Health Board & member of Durham Street), Dr Richard Egan (Senior Lecturer in Health Promotion, University of Otago), and Sue Spindler (Parish Steward, Durham Street). The project has the official backing and fiscal sponsorship of Durham Street Methodists.

The team hope to widen their contacts, especially through a one-day Spirituality and Mental Health Symposium, in Wellington on 25 November 2019 – open to all with any interest in the topic. Hear Dr Richard Egan interviewed on National Radio about the symposium, spirituality and well-being.

Next steps planned are to strengthen partnership with tangata whenua, and a multi-ethnic, multi-faith hui in Christchurch early next year to bring together people of all faith backgrounds to talk about spirituality and spiritual well-being. 

Religion should open your heart, not close your mind. Love differently.

Credits: ‘Spiritual Health Promotion Project”, Touchstone Oct 2019, and Rosemary Neave “30 Years of Stroppy Women – did we make a difference?” SpiritedNZ posted 10 Dec 2018..

One response to “Reimagining Spirituality for Today

  1. Thanks garth, Great article – will share it on my website. Another thread in this work at present is the idea of two groups petitioning Parliament to rethink how chaplaincy money is allocated, on the basis that it should not longer be limited to those Christians in good standing with their churches, and needs to have a broader vision that does not assume Christianity as the only or the core religious paradigm in NZ. One group could be christian/church folk and another people presently outside that tent.

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