Forgiveness is a hard topic, so hard most people prefer to avoid it until it’s too late.

“We all have unfinished business, conversations we have not had, and they haunt us,” said Rev. Cathlin Baker, pastor of the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury. “It is the kind of thing that when it begins to take up a lot of air time, you know it’s time to do something about it.”

Next weekend, Ms. Baker’s church is offering a workshop called Forgiveness as a Spiritual Practice, designed to help people learn how to forgive. Sue Regen, a part-time resident of Chilmark, will lead the workshop, which is open to the entire Island community.

Mrs. Regen has presented workshops and teachings on forgiveness for a dozen years. Her very first presentation on forgiveness took place at Attica Correctional Facility in New York. Her Quaker faith community holds sessions every Friday at the prison and she volunteered to share her experiences on forgiveness with the incarcerated there. It was a powerful beginning to a newfound vocation.

“It’s a tremendous privilege to watch other people step into transformation,” she said about her experience at Attica.

Sue and her husband Rich spend the shoulder seasons in the house that Rich’s grandmother built at Squibnocket in 1951. Sue is a retired middle school teacher and Rich is a retired school guidance counselor. When the Regens aren’t in Chilmark, they live in Rochester, N.Y., where they are members of the Rochester Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers. Mrs. Regen does her forgiveness work “under their care.”

Her own experience with dealing with forgiveness began when she made the choice to attend a gathering much like the one she will lead in West Tisbury.

“In 2002 I was in a great deal of pain, anger and frustration,” Mrs. Regen said. “There was a workshop on forgiveness as a spiritual practice and something said to me, ‘get yourself there.’ And that workshop was the beginning of the transformation of my life and I’ve been walking this journey ever since.”

The experience left its mark on her. The leader of that workshop, Betsy Griscom, kept in touch with the participants afterwards. It was through an email that Mrs. Regen learned Betsy was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The two women kept in touch up until Betsy could no longer type. Ms. Griscom wondered as she was dying, who would continue to do this work?

Mrs. Regen said she knew it was vital work and that it should continue. At the time, though, she never suspected she would be the one to carry it out.

Before that initial workshop with Betsy Griscom, Mrs. Regen said she expected to keep dealing with the pain or lack of forgiveness the way she always had — through a sort of repetition of her own story that involved an estranged relationship within her family.

“I learned it wasn’t about my rehearsing my grievances. It’s about changing the way I look at things and the tools and techniques I can use to do that,” she explained.

Many people take their hurt, frustration and anger and hold on to it, voicing it over and over again giving it more and more power and allowing it to take up much of their energy. With the right tools, she explained, people can learn to deal with all of the feelings that come with that anger and hurt.

The road isn’t an easy one and it comes with twists and turns. At the end of the day, Mrs. Regen explained, you can ask yourself how much time and energy you should spend thinking negative thoughts about someone.

“You need to create new patterns of thinking,” she said. “I needed to rewire my brain and with my limited understanding of neurons, there is a strong cable to the place where I need to air my grievances. I did it using new patterns of thinking.”

Both Ms. Baker and Mrs. Regen agree that forgiveness involves internal work.

“There are things that block us from forgiving,” Mrs. Regen said. “Fear, self-righteousness, pride, anger, frustration and uncertainty. If forgiveness was easy we’d all do it.”

The women also agree that forgiveness is a choice. It doesn’t mean condoning abusive behavior and it doesn’t mean giving permission to be hurt again and again. Rather, it means releasing oneself from pain. Making the choice to forgive can be powerful and can lead to healing, both spiritually and physically.

Forgiveness doesn’t fall into a religious category, Ms. Baker said.

“It transcends all traditions,” she said “It’s a human issue.”

Forgiveness as a Spiritual Practice is a two-part workshop taking place on Nov. 7 and Nov. 8 at the West Tisbury Congregational Church. The opening presentation is from 6 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 7. This is followed by a more in-depth teaching on Nov. 8, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is recommended to first attend Friday’s teaching before coming to Saturday’s comprehensive session. The cost is $30 for the full workshop, with costs covering meals on Saturday and a donation to Mrs. Regen’s ministry. The workshop is limited to 30 people. Register by calling 508-693-2842 or email