Diane Ruth Westmoreland\ud Can spiritual maturity be nurtured in Northern English Anglican congregations? \ud An exploration of whether parishioners can grow spiritually through an experiential course on prayer, using methods based in Ignatian practice\ud \ud \ud This project began with an observation that people who joined small rural Church of England churches found it hard to grow beyond the beginnings of faith and that some long-standing church-goers struggled to grow spiritually. A further concern was that the Church of England’s current emphasis on strategies for church growth was diverting congregational leaders away from an appropriate level of attention to the spiritual growth of their congregations.\ud \ud This thesis argues that congregational leaders should be encouraged to give more attention to the nurturing of growth towards spiritual maturity in the local congregation. It does this by asking the question, ‘What is spiritual maturity?’; examining models of human maturity from secular human potential psychology, faith development theory and Ignatian spirituality, before presenting a theoretical model of spiritual maturity. This 12 point model hypothesises that a significant difference between psychological and spiritual understandings of maturity is the discrepancy between human potential psychology’s suggestion of self-actualisation as the goal of human life and surrender to God as a key aspect of spiritual maturing.\ud \ud The research created an extensive original dataset and analysed whether spiritual maturity can be nurtured using methods of ethnographic study and action research. The research tracks 24 participants through an experiential course on prayer, written for this research project, and a sermon series, using semi-structured interviews before and after to assess changes in the participants’ spiritual lives and to enquire whether these changes match the model of spiritual maturity proposed. \ud \ud The contention of the thesis is threefold: that clergy should pay more attention to the nurture of spiritual growth; that Ignatian practice can be used in the congregational setting to nurture spiritual maturity and that corporate spiritual experience has a significance for growth which is currently underestimated.\u
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