What was it about OneSpirit Interfaith Foundation that attracted you? I’ve been a ‘friend of’ for a long time, and have always felt a great resonance between my own life journey and the values, spirituality and training of OneSpirit. A series of curious synchronicities led to me apply for the faculty post, which felt like a strong pull into deeper relationship with something very important.
How has your background prepared you for this role?
Engagement with world faiths was at the heart of my Theology & Religious Studies degree. In my life with my husband Ray Gaston (who is a Christian priest) we are continuously immersed in interfaith and multicultural relationships, among diverse faiths and cultures. I write books supporting ‘alternative’ forms of spiritual journeying and ritual/ celebrancy, and lead workshops, meditations and retreats on this. My teaching and training experience in spiritual accompaniment weaves in too, and my training as an initiated Druid, a deep and delightful path, holds it all together and helps me to be ‘me’ …
How do you relate to the OneSpirit idea of a personal vow?
I have what I call an aspiration, which draws together the many threads of my life-web. I was struck by how well this relates to the OneSpirit idea of vows. I don’t mind sharing its essence: It’s an intention to align with the power and wisdom of eternal love, for the good of the earth and all beings.
What do you understand by — and when did you consciously embrace — ministry?
Ministry to me, is an opening and sense of availability to Spirit, to life itself, to love, which can flow through us to work miracles in the world. It’s a subtle dance of ‘getting out of the way’, and of celebrating our uniqueness. I have lots of ministries, but I felt my vocation was especially confirmed when I was nominated and elected to take on the title of Area Minister for the West Midlands, within TSSF, an Anglican Religious Order inspired by St Francis of Assisi.
Other than your work for One Spirit, how does your ministry manifest in the world now?
I write books about alternative spirituality; I have responsibility for the spiritual care of local Franciscans (TSSF); I give time in a multifaith spiritual care role with NHS Mental Health, currently as 'chaplain' to a therapeutic garden project; I mentor as a Druid; I give time to the church community where we live, wrestling with issues of poverty, asylum seeking, inclusivity.… and what it really means to love our neighbours.
What main sources of inspiration or guidance do you draw on for your continuing spiritual journey?
The natural world, and the vast treasury of world faith wisdom traditions, with particular leanings towards Zen, Sufism, Christian mysticism, and a lifelong fascination with ancient divinatory systems. Close to home, Ray is my inspiration in ministry; I think he’s brilliant.
Where is your ‘edge’ currently — what challenges you most on your path?
As always, ‘do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:8).
Annie Heppenstall is a co-tutor on the OneSpirit training for ministers and spiritual counsellors. More about Annie's books: