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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church


    news article

    How Tending the Soul shaped my work as a Pastor and Spiritual Director

    July 19, 2019 / By Rev. Dr. Michelle Bogue-Trost

    Editor’s Note: Tending the Soul, open to both laity and clergy, is a program designed to train individuals in Missional Spiritual Direction and Congregational Formation.  The two-year training program (which takes place during six retreats) offers learning and formational experiences in classroom and small group settings. The following is the Rev. Dr. Michelle Bogue-Trost’s reflection of Tending the Soul. Click here to learn more about Tending the Soul—the next two-year session begins November 11-14, 2019.

    I was part of the inaugural group of Tending the Soul years ago, and its impact on my work and my life continues today. Tending the Soul was, for me, a formative experience that profoundly shaped my work as a Pastor and as a Spiritual Director. Learning to listen with another person for the presence and the nudging of the Holy Spirit has helped me help many persons with their unique spiritual journeys.

    I began the training with the goal and hope that I could improve the ways I listen for God’s guidance, so that I could be a better listener with members of my congregation. I hoped to gain tools for discernment that I could put in my “toolbox,” to help me in my ministry. I gained that, but so much more. Walking with others through this learning helped me to listen more fully to God’s calling in my own life; it was reflected through the others on the journey, affirmed by them and by the retreat leaders, and deeply acknowledged in my own soul. This was an unexpected gift that I continue to treasure.

    The work it has enabled me to accomplish has been deeply moving, as well. Often confronted with persons seeking a relationship with God and at a loss for how to begin, I found early in my ministry that I felt ill-equipped to partner with them. I didn’t have the words, or even the instinctive response I wished I had, and that they were looking for me to have. Tending the Soul taught me the art of listening and letting go of myself and my need to have the “right answer,” as well as the skill of simply sitting with someone and listening for God together. I learned how to ask questions and let the answers shape the listening. With these abilities, my ministry has been incredibly enriched. I have been blessed to partner with many persons since and have felt fulfilled in doing so.


    With more than 168,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 865 local churches and 91 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."