'How is it with your soul,' seniors asked
BY LINDA WORTHINGTON
Nearly 100 senior citizens, mostly women, gathered at West River Conference Center for an Older Adults Day Away Oct. 9. It was a crisp, off again-on again sunshiny day, a perfect time to enjoy the fellowship, worship, learning, food and boat rides. The day focused on the theme, “Well-being of our Souls: Is it Well with your Soul?”
The Rev. Constance Smith, pastor of Hughes Memorial UMC in Washington, led the Bible study that began the day. Distinguishing between body, soul and spirit, Smith said soul is what God cares for … and Spirit is where hope and faith reside. “Soul,” Smith said “is also where sin dwells.”
In her impassioned preaching, Smith asked, “Has your soul connected to God (not to the church, but to God)? You have to ask God to come in so your soul will not die.”
In a handout, she offered a dozen “best practices” for the well-being of the soul. One of these is to make growth in understanding God’s Word a top priority in your life.
“You don’t have to sit down just because you’re not in charge any more. … Life happens. If you’re well with Christ your soul can handle it,” she cautioned the audience, all retirement age or older.
Featured speaker, the Rev. James Ditto, a Baltimore Region Guide, emphasized the heart in his presentation. “Even with the best training in the techniques of being a good Christian, … if our hearts don’t resonate with God, it can diminish ourselves and hurt other people.”
If we become dis-heartened, sometimes it shows up in our families, in our churches, he said. If your heart does not maintain a relationship with God, you’re going to want your way all the time. When our hearts are not healthy, we distort, delay, and damage others, Ditto said, quoting from a book by Henri Nouwen.
He reminded the audience that at Gethsemane, Jesus with a healthy heart said to God, “Not my way but yours.”
There’s a danger of becoming “dis-heartened,” the worst heart disease, he said. “We lose hope, passion and energy and it will lead you down the road of depression and anger. “You owe it to everyone you love to take care of yourself – body, mind, spirit and relationally.”
Ditto ended his presentation by suggesting a “to-do” to achieve or maintain a healthy heart. “Try one week of spiritual exercise – every day – and share that with a spiritual friend to say how it went. If it didn’t work, try another until you and God are on the same frequency. That will make a happy heart.”
He added some other suggestions. Among them: start church meetings differently, so the meeting won’t just be our work, but God’s work. Start a small group to make your hearts healthier and connect with God and bring a retreat group to West River or Manidokan and get away for a day or so.
Following lunch, the attendees selected from a variety of activities. One was a boat ride onto the Chesapeake Bay with the Bay Bridge in view in the distance. Another was to learn about the social justice issues facing Haitians and six short-term mission trips led by the Rev. David Graves from St. Paul’s UMC in Lusby. Many also spent time with Andy Thornton, the conference director of camping and retreat ministries, to talk about (and sing) hymns.
Six participants, clergy and laity, discussed several hymns and the stories behind them at the closing worship. Smith led the closing Communion service. “Meditate on Christ, the solid rock, who is the lover of our soul,” she said as each communicant chose a stone from a basket.