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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

    news article

    What Tending the Soul meant to me

    August 13, 2019 / By Cheryl Hine, Licensed Local Pastor

    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 Pastor Cheryl Hine'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.

    When I applied to be a student in the 2014 - 2016 Tending the Soul program, I was a clergyperson who was interested in the program for personal reasons—to examine my own spiritual interests and questions, and to develop a daily rhythm in my own prayer life. I did not know that the transformation in my spiritual life would open doors to new ways of offering spiritual guidance and healing to the congregations I served and to individuals who came to me with their own questions, doubts and concerns. Now I am sitting in the pew with other laity, and the transformation that happened during the Tending the Soul retreats has blossomed into new ministries.

    First, on an almost daily basis, people from churches and other “walks of life” ask to sit with me at a local café to talk. Some of those conversations center on personal issues. In addition, as the United Methodist denomination sifts through questions, policies, and basic beliefs, many people need to express their thoughts, worries and fears. So people come to me in need of expressing what is tugging at their emotions, and they have told me that they feel calm in my presence. I attribute that calm presence to the training I received through the Tending the Soul program. In that program, I learned to listen rather than talk and fix someone else’s concerns. I learned to direct people toward finding their answers and callings that are present in their own hearts—to have conversations with God, to open their hearts to God, and to trust that God does everything at just the right time.

    Secondly, as a 2016 graduate of Tending the Soul, I have continued to practice the contemplative prayer practices I learned—prayer methods that include Lectio Divina, the Ignatian Prayer method, praying with prayer beads, and others. Tending the Soul formed good prayer habits within me! 

    In the past year, I have had opportunities to teach these meditative prayer practices to local churches through spiritual retreats called Growing with God. I have also had the opportunity to be part of a circle of other Spiritual Directors who completed Tending the Soul, and we are glad to be a presence within the Upper NY Conference, especially at Annual Conference.

    Most recently, I was asked to present spiritual retreats to residents who are recovering from addiction to drugs and alcohol, and I embrace the challenge of this new ministry. I trust that God will speak through me as I offer these spiritual retreats. Tending the Soul taught me to listen for God and to trust that through spiritual direction, God’s presence will be found within the hearts of each resident who is seeking to understand their own self-worth. I am humbled to offer these spiritual retreats, and I thank the teachers and leaders of Tending the Soul for a special education that has led me to this unique opportunity.

    If I not been a student in Tending the Soul, I would not have been part of the experiences offered to me in the last two years. God has guided me on new and challenging paths, and for those who enter the upcoming Tending the Soul program, I am certain that God will lead you to unique and special ministries.

    With more than 125,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises of more than 800 local churches and New Faith Communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our vision is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."