One benefice in Bath and Wells has tried to address the uncertainty caused by the Covid pandemic, by sharing with them a unique course designed to raise awareness and start conversations in local churches about mental health. It was an unusual road to travel, but it has yielded some wonderful results for this community.
St. George’s, Wembdon near Bridgwater, signed up for the free online course provided by Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries, Faith, Grief and Covid-19 designed specifically to “explore Christian engagement in the mental health conversation, expand understanding of mental health, reflect on the importance of companionship, learn about self-care, and ways that community can support mental health.”
Revd Simon Taylor, Curate at St Georges in Wembdon, believes the course has encouraged people to talk about the powerlessness they feel because of the pandemic, as well as helping them address some of the challenges the crisis is posing to their lives and their faith.
“It has helped us think about how our faith intersects with loss and particularly those loses around Covid. Not just bereavement, but loses relating to our normal pattern of life, how we worship, how we play, how we work, how we study, how we physically relate to each other, to family and friends further afield.”
Corin Pilling, the UK Director of Sanctuary Mental Health says, “Our goal is to provide theologically and psychologically informed resources and training to churches so we can become communities that respond with compassion to the challenges of mental health. We think that building wellbeing is something the whole community can benefit from, not just those who are facing challenges.”
That is exactly what has happened in Wembdon. The course gave free access to resources provided by internationally renowned theologians, psychologists, and people with lived experience of mental health challenges.
The Wembdon pastoral team used the material first to decide if it would work in their setting. The idea was then put to the church community. Groups and individuals chose to do things in different ways; small group leaders held discussion groups with their members including a crash course held in one intense Zoom session. A larger group met each Sunday via Zoom for a month.
Great ideas were shared, and used, for example the course’s mention of the psalms of lament were incorporated into a midweek prayer meeting about lament led by Ed Moll, Wembdon’s vicar.
Simon says of the project, “We used the free of charge pdf material. Some of the sessions used art meditations, and some included musical meditation. There are gently structured and semi structured questions to help people explore issues. The course moves you through considering what is grief in general, how we understand grief, how we understand loss as Christians, what might we say to people experiencing loss right now and what sort of difference can we make in our community?”
It has made a huge impact on those who have tried out the resources and those who have simply experienced a short taster session. Here are some of the comments they’ve shared.
‘In a world when so many people seem to be seeking closure, this is a breath of fresh air. The thought that grief gets woven into our lives is really helpful.’
‘So helpful in our lowest points that God feels so close.’
‘Massive thanks for all this amazing and helpful guidance – very timely.’
You can read and download Simon’s full interview with Corin Pilling, the UK Director of Sanctuary Mental Health about the course at the bottom of this page.