From the Pastor
By the time you read this, we’ll have begun a congregational conversation around mental health, the realities so many of us (including your humble scribe) are carrying around, and we’ll have begun exploring the opportunities that lie in front of us to BE the body of Christ to one another and show up in companionship, compassion, and support, connecting people to one another and to resources in our community to pursue health in body, mind, and spirit.
Remember back to a year ago when we started daily prayer. The prayer list was sort of reset, and because it wasn’t too long at the start, we would pray all the names every day. The typical requests would show up – cancer, surgeries, doctor’s visits, and the like. But then there was one unique request – an “unspoken” (meaning, unnamed) request asking for prayer for anxiety and depression. As this request is near and dear to my heart, and I know the stigma – real or perceived – I shared a little bit and moved on. In a couple of days, another request showed up, this one also anxiety and depression with an eating disorder attached. Still unnamed but known to God. So, we prayed for that too. After another couple of days, I received a text message from someone who wanted to share a little bit via text only, but we talked about this person’s struggles and prayed together. After ANOTHER couple of days, an email came in, thanking me for sharing, and we shared a bit about our experiences together.
You get the point. The point is, SO MANY of us, unknown to us but known to God – are struggling under this weight. And yet the church hasn’t always known what to do with that. In fact, there isn’t yet a sense that church is a safe space to share these concerns, and with good reason! We all know people or congregations that will say, “Pray it away!” or “Don’t be depressed, just be happy!” as if depression (or any other mental disorder) were a choice to make. We have to own a little bit of our collective baggage and acknowledge that the Wider Church has not always been a safe space to talk about these issues.
If we are serious about walking alongside people in their struggles, we can’t just announce that we are a safe space to talk about these concerns. We have to demonstrate it. We have to be intentional about it. We have to share stories and take concrete actions and build a reputation day by day that God is present to those with mental health challenges in the same way that God is present to each of us in our own struggles.
That’s what WISE is all about – creating an environment that is hospitable to those who need our care. We have so much experience to lean on, and yet we have so much to learn. And it will take all of us working together to create that environment of health and care.
So, join in the conversations – join one of our discussion groups, join in our book study, do your own research, tell stories and listen to stories. Treat each of these stories as the sacred offering they are. And together, as a congregation, we’ll discern our path forward. Together, we’ll be like the four friends who lowered their friend to Jesus and found healing and strength.
Peace and Good Yall,