Spiritual Guides – The Key to Transformation?

by the Very Revd Rogers Govender MBE, Dean of Manchester and Chair of the Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns 

Every visitor attraction and Cathedral in this country has a number of guides to help people navigate the place. These are usually volunteers who know how to tell the story of the place because they have usually spent much time in the space over several years. They have grown to love the history, the artefacts, and the people who have animated the space over the years.

We know much about the Girl Guide movement for girls aged 10 to 14. They are young people who want to go on adventures, create their own campaigns, learn leadership skills and meet new friends. This work of personal and social transformation begins at an early age. Very often the Girl Guide movement as well as Scouts train their members to become trail guides by going on hikes, mountain climbing, etc.

The National Trust is another organisation that depends heavily on tour guides. Without their help and support the NS would struggle to open national treasures to millions of visitors around the country.

As Christians we believe that God is our eternal guide. We follow Jesus the Guide who takes us on the train and trains us to become spiritual guides to others in their search for meaning and for God’s Kingdom. Psalm 73:24 reminds us ‘You guide me with your counsel and afterwards you will receive me with honour.’

We are encouraged to have a spiritual guide to help us with our relationship with God and to help us in our discipleship and ministry. For some of us this is an alternative to therapy, enabling us to combine personal and psychological insights with spiritual teaching and truths. Spiritual Guides are essential for those of us in Christian ministry.

A guide is able to speak from years of experience, with a practised sense of direction, self-discipline and an ability to lead others (Prophetic Dialogue, p 51). A seasoned guide will also be able to read the signs of impending storms or obstacles and help people stay the course avoiding potential danger. When distractions emerge, the guide will encourage people to keep moving so that they arrive at their destination safely.

We are taught in the gospels that endurance in the spiritual journey is crucial for authentic discipleship, ‘The person who endures to the end will be saved’ (Mark 13:13). The ability to endure to the end is possible through our faith in Christ and the encouragement of our guides. Some may understand a mentor to be one’s guide. However, one may look at this, we all need someone to guide us through this earthly pilgrimage which usually begins in our early life with our parents, teachers and friends.

We need spiritual guides to experience the good news of the gospel. We note the role of Philip as a guide to the Ethiopian eunuch, enabling him to share the good news of the gospel leading to his baptism.

I have been reflecting on the importance of guides because we live in challenging times in church and society. There are so many issues of injustice, exclusion and exploitation that we face each day. We are called to a personal faith that cannot remain private – our faith calls us to engage with the needs of the wider church and society. Sometimes we may grow weary because we do not see any progress. As the current Chairperson of CMEAC (Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns) I have seen such slow progress on issues of racism in the Church of England. I am encouraged by the work of Lament to Action.

In a secular society we can easily get tired of the apparent indifference to spiritual matters of faith and relationship with God. I was on a tram one evening in November this year and saw a man on the street holding a placard proclaiming that Jesus is Lord. A young lad sitting opposing me on the tram got rather angry and started banging on the window of the tram at the man on the street and began spouting expletives that were angry outbursts about God and the Church. It did leave me feeling a bit shattered and saddened.

We sometimes face the temptation to give up the fight for justice and fairness. This is often the case with the issues of racism, human sexuality, gender equality, migration policy, etc. We wonder when might these issues be addressed in positive and just ways.

However, I want to encourage us to look to Christ who is our Guide (John 16:13). We also need to look to those who guide and inspire us in our personal faith, discipleship and wider mission for Christ. We must endure and stay on message as we follow Jesus on The Way of the Cross to the experience of Resurrection. Let’s continue to ‘do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). Only in this way will be see God working in and through us as agents of God’s transforming mission in the world!




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1 Response to Spiritual Guides – The Key to Transformation?

  1. Nicky says:

    Rev Govendor, I found this really helpful, thank you. And thank you for your much needed ministry.My only personal burning question to the last paragraph is , yes we must ” stay on message..Etc” but given the injustice, racism, homophobia, abuse within CofE , (which it is so very slow to address) is this the right institution to follow that imperitive ?

Any thoughts?