Book Review: Tending the Holy

Book Review: Tending the Holy

Author: Norvene Vest

Publisher: Morehouse Publishing ISBN: 9780819219183

Tending the Holy: Spiritual Direction Across Traditions

This is a very helpful book, very helpful.

Since the time this book was originally published, the practice of spiritual formation and spiritual direction has continued to move to the front of many conversations in the realm of those who would profess to “be spiritual but not religious.” It is true that spiritual direction as a practice is also gaining prominence among those who are religions as well…at least I think it is, observations in the circles I travel prove this true to me. In light of these comments, it is helpful to understand what spiritual direction is and what it means across a diverse group of people sharing different “spiritual” beliefs.

The following is from the back cover of Tending the Holy:

“The contributors to Tending the Holy explore what spiritual direction looks like—and what questions are asked—through a variety of lenses. From an examination of the spiritual direction relationship in the Evangelical Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Sufi, and Hindu traditions, to the Benedictines, Carmelites, and Ignatians, and finally, to the contemporary lenses of feminism, Generation X, the institutional perspective, and even one based on the natural world and the spirituality of St Francis of Assisi, this collection explores unexplored territory. Tending the Holy is a provocative and cutting-edge resource foe spiritual directors and pastoral counselors.”

Norvene Vest, a spiritual director herself, serves as the editor for this collection of essays and has organized the book into three primary sections. Part one includes perspectives from worldwide faith traditions outside of the mainstream of Christianity. Part two of the book focuses on the Christian traditions and part three addresses a few special spiritual perspectives that are predominately Christian perspectives, but are located more on the periphery of the mainstream.

I found the information about these various streams and perspectives very enlightening, but even more than the information itself, was the attitude that the authors wrote their particular essay. I did not sense any proselytizing biases, but more to the contrary, there seemed a universal respect and openness to all other perspectives and traditions of spirituality. This “attitude,” whether perceived or otherwise helped me to read with openness and welcome learning from traditions other than my own. I believe I have been made better for it.

The book can be read straight through, but I am finding myself returning to it again and again as a wonderful resource and reading individual chapters. I have particularly enjoyed going back to read chapter ten (Transforming Institutions) and eleven (The Care and Feeding of the Gen-X Soul) on several occasions. I am sure I will be learning from these essays for some time.

I do wish there was a dedicated bibliography or a recommended reading section, but there is a well documented notes section at the end of the book that can fill this wish. This is a well-written and very helpful book. It might serve to break down barriers and stereotypes that have been harmful to relationships both in the traditions of Christianity and for interfaith discussions.

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