A Word from Our Pastor 2016 May

A Word from Our Pastor

Greetings from Ghost Ranch, near Abiquiu, New Mexico!

I have been here for five days now, at a second session of my training in Spiritual Direction. There are 11 other students with me, from all walks of life. Only three of us are pastors of churches (I am the only United Methodist). The others come from a wide variety of careers, with one retiree. There is even a semi-retired orthopedic surgeon in our group. However, what draws us together is a common interest in helping people discern how God is guiding their lives, and of course, a common interest in learning new ways to find signs of God’s activity in our own lives. That is a simple definition of what Spiritual Direction is: through careful listening and questioning, helping someone to recognize how God may be leading, comforting, teaching, or accompanying them. In another way of understanding, it is like one boat coming alongside another boat, and together trying to discern how the river is flowing.

Spiritual direction is not the same as pastoral care of counseling. Even if someone is dealing with a practical issue such as a fight over child custody, the Spiritual Director would focus on how this problem affected the person’s faith and relationship with God. A pastoral care counselor might focus on solving problems, such as helping to find others who might testify, provide information to a court about the person’s parenting skills, or setting up a support network—practical problem solving.

This weeklong session has explored several themes, including the role of light and darkness, our “shadow” sides, and how we deal with major life transitions from a spiritual perspective. We have also received some training about how one might be a Spiritual Director for a person of a different faith. To assist with that, we visited two Muslim sites in the area; one was a teeny mosque (the interior must have been about twenty feet by fifteen feet) that served three families in the neighborhood. Just a few miles down the road was a much larger Islamic education and conference center. At one time one of their buildings had functioned as a mosque, but now there is no local community to worship there, so it is used to house retreat groups or host other special events. Although these two buildings are quite close to each other, they serve two different communities, almost like having a Methodist church across the street from a Baptist church.

A lot of what we do here is work on our own spiritual lives, so that we can better serve others. It is very, very different from going to a church camp; it is a bit more like what it should be to live in a monastery. We spend a lot of time in silent contemplation and writing in our journals. We have presentations and discussions just as you would in an academic setting. We also have practice sessions in which we act as Spiritual Directors for each other. During those practices, we have both an observer and a highly experienced supervisor who give us feedback.

Having this opportunity to focus on my own spiritual journey, as well as acquiring some useful skills, has been a real blessing. At the same time I think of you during the course of the sessions, because what we are learning is often particularly relevant to someone at church, or to our church as a whole. So, I am looking forward to coming home soon, and returning to you all! –Rev. Naomi