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From place to place

17 April 2015

Anne Spalding on a questioning guide


Beyond the Edge: Spiritual transitions for adventurous souls

Andrew D. Mayes

SPCK £10.99


Church Times Bookshop £9.90

BEYOND THE EDGE provides plenty to ponder. Each of the ten chapters centres on a Gospel record of Jesus, helpfully linked to its particular location in the Holy Land. So the first chapter is about Jesus's baptism, located in the River Jordan, and a later chapter explores his conversation with the woman at Jacob's well in Samaria (John 4). Mayes describes the significance of each place (he has lived in the Holy Land) as well as explores the Gospel text and its implications for Jesus, other people present, and for us.

The basis for the book is that Jesus was always on the move, and that he challenged his disciples and others to make spiritual transitions in each change. I was not feeling an "adventurous soul", and so I feared being set impossible challenges. Reassuringly, I found that Mayes draws out different ways of responding which fit the reality that life never stands still.

Also Mayes understands transition itself as a process, not as a moment. Many chapters, therefore, include insights from Teresa of Ávila, the Desert Fathers, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, and others in the Christian tradition who have journeyed spiritually themselves and have sought to help others do so, too. Readers do not need to be experts: there is enough to provoke thinking and start conversations. Indeed, each chapter includes "Questions for Reflection" and "Prayer Exercise(s)" to do now, and suggestions "For further reading" to explore later.

Mayes hopes that spiritual directors - those who accompany and encourage others on their own spiritual journeys - will be among readers of Beyond the Edge. So, in the appendix, he reflects back and raises questions for spiritual directors. For example, in relation to the Syrophoenician woman, he asks how comfortable we are with the idea of the spiritual director as an irritant. And, in relation to the storm on the lake, Mayes asks about our own experience of the storm of prayer, and how the experience might help us in supporting others.

For me, none of his questions has a quick answer; so this is a book that I will go back to as a spiritual director, with others and for myself. 

Dr Anne Spalding is a member of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis, and lives in Suffolk.

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