International interest is on the rise in a new online spiritual direction, supervision, counselling and retreat service.
“We’re delighted to offer spiritual direction, supervision, counselling and the possibility of making a retreat online which is confidential and private,” says Marist Father, Stephen Truscott SM, a director of the Fullness of Life Centre in Perth.
The trans-Tasman project, called “There’s a Time”, takes its foundation from Ecclesiastes 3.
“There’s a Time when we can all benefit from talking things over with someone, and occasionally, There’s a Time when conversations are best had with a professional,” says Stephen Truscott.
Stephen Truscott says at one point spiritual directors used the technology of pen, paper and transported letters via international postal services. Now there’s a global transportation opportunity for clients and service providers to meet via secure video.
“There’s a Time is a response to Pope Francis’ invitation to use technology to reach out”, he says.
The service, open to spiritual directors, supervisors, counsellors and those who deliver retreats, (service providers), has the welfare of all as its focus, he says.
As a ‘startup project’, he is happy to say that interest is mounting.
A priest with little marketing experience, Stephen Truscott says the project is growing organically; mainly by word of mouth.
Stephen Truscott has identified initial Australian interest coming from a spiritual director training establishment, a religious organisation, and several counselling providers.
He is particularly pleased with the international support for the service.
“20 or so people from New Zealand indicated interest at a recent spiritual directors conference and others are using it in international settings”, he says.
Expanding the idea, Stephen Truscott says the service opens up international opportunities for both service providers and clients.
A secure solution that just works
“The point of difference with this solution is that it’s secure, easy to use and it actually works”, says Stephen Truscott.
“Popular free solutions are anything but secure and private, and most of the time they’re quite unreliable”.
“There’s also no such thing as ‘free’ on the Internet.
“When something on the Internet is free, you become the product”, Stephen Truscott says
By using a HIPAA certified, sometimes described as ‘medical’ or ‘military’ grade solution, Stephen Truscott confidently says it is possible to bring people together, in a secure environment, from just about anywhere in the world.
As well as exceptional security and great video service, Stephen Truscott identifies other positives such as eliminating travel time, use of a vehicle, parking fees and public transport.
Convenience and choice aside he says, “It’s so good it’s just like being there”.
Until March 2018 costs of using the service are covered by the Fullness of Life Centre. People wanting to use the service are welcome to contact the Centre.
Australia and New Zealand
Aware of the struggle people with disabilities, those in rural and outback areas in Australia and their inability to easily access spiritual direction, professional supervision and counselling, Stephen Truscott teamed up with Fr John Murphy of the New Zealand Marist Internet Project, to help find a solution.
A local problem quickly became a global solution and for the past eighteen months or so, in between their other ministries, they tested the technology to develop the project.
Stephen Truscott says the trans-Tasman team bringing the project together has tested more than 30 video conference solutions in 10 countries.
In addition to Stephen Truscott and John Murphy, their meetings periodically include a Sydney lawyer, Bangkok Web developer, and Auckland fund-raiser.
“When the George Street, Sydney lawyer asked permission to take our idea to his partners, I took it as a pretty good sign”, Stephen Truscott said, with a smile.
The Bangkok developer also ‘picked our brains’ and is now using the solution to communicate with his clients all around the world.
Stephen Truscott says that without the Internet some people’s pressing needs will go unaddressed.
“Who would have thought that in the Seminary I’d be part of an international group starting a global spiritual direction, supervision and counselling service?
“The Marist missionary spirit in the first world is alive and well”, he said.
Staring at several brick walls
Describing the journey as “sometimes staring at several brick walls, but thankfully not all at once”, he says the rollercoaster ride is “exciting”.
Stephen Truscott admits the business plan changed several times.
With a preference for those people, who for one reason or another, are unable to meet face-to-face with a service provider, Stephen Truscott expressed surprise that organisations whom he thought might support the outreach to the disadvantaged, turned down the approach for funding!
He says his reading tells him there are two main reasons why startups fail: no seed money and no marketing plan. We have a marketing plan and are now following positive funding leads, he says.
Stephen Truscott says he is particularly grateful to Knights of the Southern Cross in Australia for some seed funding for the project, and to local business people in Perth who bring a wealth of real-world business experience and who are willing to volunteer as the project’s directors.
The service, complete with screen sharing and whiteboard can also be used for example, for meetings, education, seminars, broadcasting guest speakers etc.
The cost of using the service is covered by the Fullness of Life Centre until the end of March 2018.
People wanting to try it are welcome to get in touch.