April 23, 2014

Princeton-based Reverend Laura Craig Offers Interfaith/Spiritual Ministry

SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE: “I am an ordained interfaith/interspiritual minister, and also a spiritual director, sometimes called spiritual guide or spiritual companion,” explains Reverend Laura Craig. She offers spiritual guidance to people of many backgrounds.

SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE: “I am an ordained interfaith/interspiritual minister, and also a spiritual director, sometimes called spiritual guide or spiritual companion,” explains Reverend Laura Craig. She offers spiritual guidance to people of many backgrounds.

Reverend Laura Craig wants to assist people on their spiritual journey, share their doubts and questions, and ultimately help them discover the spiritual path that is right for them.

“The focus of interfaith ministry is that everyone’s path is legitimate, holy, and good for them,” explains Reverend Laura.

An interfaith/interspiritual minister and spiritual director, Reverend Laura traveled her on own journey before she found that her life work was in helping others achieve spiritual well-being. Growing up in Westchester County, New York, she attended the Catholic Church and Catholic schools, and her best friend was Jewish. “I went to her family’s Seders and other religious celebrations, and I was always wondering about different faiths at a young age,” says Rev. Laura.

Majoring in biology at Fordham University, she found that she was focused on other areas, and “my spirituality was on the back burner for a while.”

Spiritual Awakening

After graduating, she married, had a child, and later went on to earn a masters degree in food science at Rutgers University. Then, several years ago, she developed chronic fatigue syndrome, which forced her to stop working due to severe exhaustion and other symptoms. During this time, she consulted physicians, therapists, herbalists, and a number of other specialists in her search for a means of recovery.

“I was so exhausted that I was basically unable to do anything,” she explains. “However, my spiritual life blossomed during my illness. There can be a spiritual awakening during a low period of one’s life.”

Gradually, her energy returned, and she set up a monthly support group at St. Joseph’s Church in Hillsborough to help people going through a divorce. “It was anywhere from eight to 12 people, and it was helpful to them and me,” points out Rev. Laura. “I had something to do and was entering life again. In time, the group expanded to weekly meetings.”

“At one point, a woman called, and wanted to be part of the group. She was Jewish, and this was a Christian-based program. I said I would try to make it more interfaith-oriented, but she felt she couldn’t participate. So, I thought I could develop my own interfaith program. I decided on three 13 week group sessions during the year, and it went very well.”

“Every week, there was a different topic. Divorce is like a hurricane — everything is torn apart. We also had an opening and closing prayer, which I wrote. By this time, I was healthier, and after getting a part-time job, I decided I wanted to go to school to become a spiritual director. I had found that my own spirituality was becoming more and more important to me, and the desire to be a spiritual director came out of my experience with the support group. I saw that people could surely benefit from spiritual direction.”

She attended Oasis School in Pennsylvania, which offered a two-year program. “You study all the different religions, looking at how people pray and how they relate to their God,” explains Rev. Laura. “One of the important lessons was that they said you have to let go of everything you know and learn how to listen. This is an ancient concept.”

Same Truths

“I learned more about all the religions, and my whole world opened up. There was a new awareness of how other people pray and practice their faith. Actually, the central part of every religion is really the same, with the same essence: faith in a higher power, and all stress the same truths, including goodness and righteousness.”

As a spiritual director, Rev. Laura can serve as a companion to anyone who is on a spiritual journey. “Basically, the only requirement for spiritual direction is one’s desire and openness to discuss, express, or grow in intimacy with God,” she explains. “You, the directee, decide what to discuss. Whatever is going on in your life is the entrance way for us to explore together where God is taking initiative and your responses to God’s actions. As director, I allow time and space for discussion, reflection, and prayer.”

Rev. Laura notes that many reasons prompt someone to see a spiritual director. “Feelings of spiritual emptiness, unconnectedness, restlessness, and the realization that one’s childhood faith is no longer enough are all reasons. Sometimes, one might have a powerful experience of the Divine, and need to discuss what has happened with someone who would understand.”

Rev. Laura is also a member of Spiritual Direction International, which has a website, offering information and guidance.

Continuing to seek ways to offer spiritual help to others, Rev. Laura discovered the One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in New York City in 2008. “Looking into it, I felt it was the right place for me. The two-year program consisted of lots of reading, writing papers, and going to different houses of worship. We spent a month on each of the major religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, and Native American faith practices. “We would worship with the people of all these different faiths, saying the prayers, reading the scriptures, and learning about them. It was complete immersion.”

“Interfaith ministry and interspirituality are relatively new terms on the spiritual landscape,” she continues. “Interfaith ministry enables one to minister to people of all faiths, when traditional venues cannot meet their needs. Interspirituality means that whichever spiritual path is mindfully chosen by someone, it will lead to the same Divine Unknown, the same Creator, the same God.”

Personalized Ceremonies

“All authentic spiritual traditions, at their core, are committed to the common values of peace, tolerance, wisdom, compassionate service, and love for all creation. Beneath the diversity of theological beliefs, rites, and observations lies the deeper common ground built on a clear understanding of authentic spiritual experience.”

Ordained as an interfaith minister, Rev. Laura can perform christenings, weddings, and funerals. “It is very personalized,” she explains. “I create the ceremonies for the people, and it is very individualized. An interfaith/interspiritual minister can meet the needs of someone’s life circumstances when traditional religions may not. For example, a couple not practicing any particular spiritual path may want to publicly welcome their baby and not know anyone to officiate at their ceremony. An interfaith/interspiritual minister will create and personalize a service that is meaningful to them and their guests.”

Reverend Laura also hopes to offer a series of retreats, including music, meditation, and reflection,  which will be held at her location at the Fellowship in Prayer at 291 Witherspoon Street. She is a member of the Princeton Clergy, and is also involved in prison ministry.

As she says, “We are all human, and all have the same needs and longings and frustrations. I witness that over and over again. My job as a spiritual director is to listen beneath the words to show them where God is working in their lives. I am a spiritual person, and I want to walk with people on their spiritual journey.”

“My highest aspiration as interfaith/interspiritual minister is to become a bridge between people of different faiths, enabling them to respect and honor each other’s traditions in an effort to bring some peace into our very broken world.”

Rev. Laura can be reached at (908) 281-6776. Website: groundsforministry.com.