By Beth A. Booram. InterVarsity Press, 2015. 181 pages. $16/paperback; $15.99/eBook.Buy from QuakerBooks
Discerning, supporting, and following our leadings while helping each other do the same is, in my view, the second most core part of our Quaker lives together and one that springs directly from the first, worship. Many Friends are currently endeavoring to equip their meetings and churches to do this work better. While there are a number of good resources for this work from Quaker authors, it is worth seeking out additional resources from Friendly minded authors of other traditions. One of those is Beth Booram, who, in addition to having coauthored a book with Quaker author J. Brent Bill, makes several references to Friends practices and quotes in this volume.
Organized around the stages of the process of discerning and birthing a leading or, as Booram calls it, “your God-given dream,” this book is part inspiration and part DIY spiritual direction with queries and exercises. Friends who feel at home with Christian language, the Bible, and thoughtful evangelism, as well as Friends easy with translating that language to their own, will most benefit from this collection of stories, examples, spiritual direction insight, and grounding quotes. Others may be challenged to see through the language and may do better elsewhere.
Booram’s own story as the cofounder and director of Sustainable Faith Indy, an urban retreat center in Indianapolis, Ind., is the center of this book. There she leads the School of Spiritual Direction and offers individual and group spiritual direction. In addition, Booram weaves in the stories of her directees and a number of other people she interviewed. These stories, not only of success but also of the challenges during the different stages of the birthing of a large leading, are helpful and instructive, especially when considered alongside the suggested journaling exercises at the end of each chapter.
As someone who also works helping people bring creative visions to life, largely in a secular context, seeing the spiritual direction perspective was reassuring, as were the examples from people who articulate their visions in religious language. My experience is that creativity and spirituality are almost synonyms for the same process, discipline, and experience, therefore much of the language in Starting Something New sounded familiar to me. I expect many artists, writers, musicians, and other creatives, as well as Friends struggling with or in the midst of bringing to life large leadings, will resonate with the birthing metaphors as well as the descriptions of how it feels to be both in flow and in struggle.
Booram recommends using this volume in addition to human support, such as a spiritual advisor or coach, and I concur. Prior to or alongside that support, it could be a useful resource for Friends discerning and bringing to life large leadings.