The Companioning Center Journey: Companions Along the Way

Apr 25 / Kathi Gatlin
In my last post, I shared how my personal journey of walking toward the mountain became the beginning of the Companioning Center.

Walking this journey toward the mountain was both healing and difficult. I felt like I was taking risks, yet I knew this was the way, just as I knew breathing was necessary. It felt like a compelling force and also as natural as breathing. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and the ground continued to be firm in the stepping.

Continuing in the work of my own personal healing and in offering spiritual formation, I met with Katie Skurja as a spiritual director and professor. I appreciated the work we did together in my own healing, using her approach to integration through the enneagram and inner healing. I began to sense that part of the mountain included her. Yet, I still didn’t know how. I knew that those doing this companioning work needed to work together to create a platform for others to know the invitation and to support themselves in this work.

The next step came soon after. I met Lynn Holt, a Quaker pastor at the time and we decided to share a home together. It is easier and cheaper to live in a community, to share space and expenses. I also found it to be a healthy way of living life – doing so in community with others. Meeting and loving God individually is a deep experience and it is broadened more when experienced in community.

Lynn had been training spiritual directors for several years at the seminary I attended. We started the conversation about taking spiritual direction training outside of the academic setting. We both knew people who either did not have a bachelor’s degree to enter the seminary or didn’t need a master’s degree yet seemed to have the charism of spiritual direction. If there was a solid program outside of academia, they could engage in the training.

Here is where we started – I began sharing what I felt called to do with both Lynn and Katie along with another friend, Jean Nevills. However, my view of the mountain was still fuzzy, and I was still taking one step at a time.

First, I began conversations with those who might want to financially invest in creating something together. I had spent my money on my education so I could not invest that way. However, I could do much of the administrative support to get us going.

This was an important step for me personally. When I worked for other people, I had always created things for their dreams and goals with the desire to fit in and belong. This time, I was creating something that came from inside me. I didn’t need to fit another’s framework. I felt like I was faithfully walking the way I was invited. Even though every step felt shaky, the ground felt firm as I started to place weight on each tentative step. I could finally breathe deeply for the first time in my life.

It felt like such a risk to share my dream with others. It was a risk of sounding completely crazy when I shared what I knew was my invitation. As I shared this with these three women, I began to see more and more of the mountain. There was space for spiritual formation and for spiritual direction training. This was the way.

As the way was opening up, I desired clarity for the journey to the mountain. I decided to engage in the Quaker practice called a Meeting for Clearness. I gathered a group of people who knew me for several years and in various capacities. Some from my previous job and others from my more recent journey of healing and discovery. We listened together to hear what God would say regarding this new path. We noticed together that there were no red flags and this movement forward seemed very congruent to me and my journey.

Katie and Lynn agreed to start the journey with me. They provided a small amount of capital, and I went to work to get it all set up. Jean joined in as well as a sounding board and companion in the work. We began the work of setting up the Center and started walking together toward the mountain.

As we began, we noticed three things:

  • People are hungry for more in their relationship with God. This hunger is not always understood in their faith communities and the community connection they desire isn’t necessarily possible on a Sunday morning.
  • Once people engage in an experiential relationship with God, going deeper in that relationship, they may begin to not feel at home in their faith communities. It doesn’t mean they need to leave those communities, but they do need people to walk alongside them on the journey.
  • Those who can walk in a companioning role need a platform to connect with others and to support themselves as they live out a companioning vocation.

The four of us grew in excitement for what we were walking towards. We began by offering in-person conferences to gather people together for community and spiritual formation conversations. People attended and we enjoyed our times together, but I knew that there was more on this journey toward the mountain.

Being four women in similar stages of life, we needed more diversity in our voices. Two men decided to join our ranks as we continued, Jeff Savage and Michael Simmons. Both of these men are gifts to our conversations moving forward. They have the same heart for the journey as we do and we continue to walk together.

In 2020, COVID ended our conferences, but our online offerings grew and seemed more true to our way forward. Again, the step is firm in the stepping.

We are incredibly thankful for the way our spiritual direction training has engaged others as well as our other offerings. They are parts of the mountain we have been stepping toward all along. We desire others to join in the journey, both in offering their voice and in feeling met in what they are seeking.

Join me next week, when I share who we are at this time in our journey. We are still traveling toward the mountain with a clearer view than I, we, had at the beginning. More voices have joined us and are filling in the details along the way. It is a great joy to see the continued development.
Kathi Gatlin
Kathi Gatlin co-founded the Companioning Center and founded Boldly Loved to bring together her two greatest passions: spiritual formation and teaching. Walking alongside others in their spiritual journey, whether individually or in groups, brings her immense joy. She loves sharing the contemplative life and exploring ways of understanding God with others. Ultimately, seeing companions grow deeper in their own understanding of who God is and who they are in relationship with God is her faithfulness.

Kathi is a trained spiritual director, supervisor, writer, spiritual formation group facilitator, retreat speaker, leadership mentor, and adjunct professor with George Fox University and Portland Seminary.

Kathi has two grown daughters and five delightful grandchildren. She enjoys coffee, chocolate, deep conversations, reading the mystics, and walking in trees with her Covid puppy, Oliver.