Discernment and Discovery

Spiritual Direction, often called “Spiritual Guidance,” is a prayerful opportunity for an individual to share his/her relationship with God with one who can be a guide, or “anam cara” (soul friend), on this spiritual journey. The Spiritual Director covenants with the Directee to meet regularly, to pray daily for them and to provide a safe space for the individual’s experiences to be shared and pondered. Together with the Holy Spirit, the Director and Directee listen for God’s voice and discern God’s presence in the Directee’s life.

We find that God often shows up among ordinary daily activities, such as washing dishes, caring for an elderly relative or driving to work. We also look for the ways God speaks through scripture, worship, and prayer, as well as through music, art, dreams and relationships.

Spiritual Direction is not therapy. It is not Pastoral Counseling. It a sacred companionship, focused on the Directee and the working of the Holy Spirit in their life.

A Spiritual Director can help if:
+  You find yourself wanting a greater relationship with God.
+  You search for God at a crossroad in your life.
+  You want to explore new ways to pray.
+  Prayer has become difficult.
+  You want someone to help prayerfully discern a call of God for you.
+  You desire a companion on the spiritual journey.

Leslie Watkins, spiritual director

I currently work with young emerging adults as an Associate Minister at Peachtree Road UMC, and while I was in seminary, I spent a year as a Chaplain at Emory University Hospital. In both of these contexts, I have had the opportunity to work with individuals who are feeling stuck spiritually. They may have experienced an unexpected life change such as an illness or loss of a relationship or job, or they may be in a place where something that used to help them feel connected to God no longer seems to work.

Through these conversations, I realized that I needed to broaden my abilities to work with people who are experiencing challenges in their faith journey. I am well-versed in the UMC responses to the theological questions I am asked, but in many of my conversations those responses seem to fall flat; those “answers” don’t actually fit the “questions” being asked.

Sometimes, rather than spouting the UMC Discipline as a way to address the question, it is more helpful if people are given the time and space to listen to their own hearts. The process can be aided by studying scripture and Bible characters through the lens of their own situations, and by exploring new ways to pray and meditate as they discern their own responses. I believe these questions come at those times when there may be more going on than what the question may imply. This, I have come to witness, is where the Holy Spirit is at work—speaking through our own life experiences, into our own contexts and situations.

I decided to become a Spiritual Director and pursued training through the Haden Institute, which originated through the Episcopal Church. During the two year training program, I studied John O’Donohue, St. Teresa of Avila, Dr. Roberta Bondi and Julian of Norwich, Alan Jones, Thomas Merton and Meister Eckhart, to name a few. I learned to listen for God speaking through nature, dance, music, art and poetry. I explored God’s voice through dreams in dream groups, shared and listened to spiritual autobiographies, studied the Enneagram, created spiritual art, learned about Celtic spirituality and a little about Carl Jung.

Through my practice as a Spiritual Director, I have been privileged to witness the power of the Holy Spirit provide spiritual healing, bold breakthroughs and courageous life changes that have brought individuals into a closer relationship with God and with others. My training has expanded my abilities to minister to people in new ways, and it has been a privilege to offer this to my congregation and community. I work with individuals and plan to expand to groups in the near future.

For more information, contact Leslie Watkins at (404) 240-8248 or lesliew@prumc.org.