This letter was sent by friends to the elders of their congregation on behalf of a friend and fellow member who has Multiple Chemical Sensitivities.
One can be well and live with a serious mental illness or disability. But wellness does require community (such as a church). Therefore let's ask, "Is my church a place where people can be well?"
Through the apostle Paul, God paints a vision for his people in 1 Corinthians 12 as one body, together in Christ. No one excludes another. (The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!”) No one self-excludes.
Susie Angel talks about the rejection and the welcome she experienced in churches as a person with cerebral palsy. She says, "God needed me for a purpose to be the way I am, that purpose was to teach able bodied people that it was okay to be different."
Here's a “wish list”, created by mothers of what they would find helpful for local churches to offer families who have children with special needs.
As congregational members who do not have intellectual disabilities engage week in and week out with those who do, everyone learns and grows. People have to learn how to talk with others who are much different from them. That requires everyone to take risks, to reach out to one another, to have awkward conversations that will, over time, become less awkward.
As an organization in a community, churches do the best job of knowing who currently has special needs within their congregations and often within their community.
I thank God for people who are willing to tell their stories, especially when those stories could be turned against them. This danger looms especially for people whose story includes mental illness. Being open about one's own journey can risk loss of job, friends, family, and rejection by fellow church members.
Many people loathe December and January. Holiday parties can bring pain along with joy. People renew old tensions, unbury hatchets, and pronounce judgments on others. Perhaps even worse, some people sit home alone, uninvited to gatherings with loneliness blowing cold like a winter draft.
In the 1960s and early ’70s, U.S. military personnel were often treated shamefully upon returning to civilian life. Those flying home from their tour of duty in Germany or Vietnam were told to change into civilian clothes before boarding the plane. If they walked into a U.S. airport wearing their military uniforms, they risked being shouted at, cursed, even spat upon.
"We are all a part of God's story, and trusting Him through the twists and turns isn't easy. At the heart of our stories is the essence of belonging - to each other and to Him. And we need to know that we belong - even with our abnormalities and idiosyncrasies." - Sara Pot
The novel, Divine Towels by Beau Jason McGlynn, describes a mother and son, Claire and Ethan, who are led by God to begin a healing ministry called Divine Towels. By washing the feet of those seeking to be healed God uses Claire and Ethan to effect healing.
We heard things like 'It's good Katherine went to Tom and Glenda. They'll be able to handle this.' Translation: Thank God it wasn't me! Alternative translation: Don't look to me for help! I'm wiping my hands here.
If you have experienced a stroke and are involved in a church community, Dr. Peggy Goetz and her student assistants would like to be in touch with you for a study Goetz is conducting. She would like to interview stroke survivors and attend worship and other church activities with them over the course of several weeks
As issues started coming up, we had to make decisions together. When should mom stop driving? Is she using the stove safely? Is she taking her meds correctly? When do we need to consider moving mom into assisted living? Facing such decisions can bring out old tensions and even tear families apart. We did not want this to happen to us.
Mental health is not a particularly religious term. But the concern for wellness, for healing and recovery, and for the effects of illness and disease are part of spiritual care. It has never been easy for individuals suffering from brain disorders to find place among us.
Matthew Warren had the best medical care available, a loving church that cared for him and his family, and parents who loved and prayed for him. Yet, that could not keep Matthew with us.
Mom hasn’t been able to initiate conversation for several years, but only a few months ago yet, mom and I could have two sentence conversations. I would say a brief sentence, and she would usually give some appropriate response. Those appropriate responses are gone too. Except one.
When faith communities show non-judgmental love to members affected by mental illness, parishioners feel safe to acknowledge their needs and overcome their fears of rejection. A faith community can establish that reputation with persons who have a mental illness and their families in a variety of ways.
They both live in good group homes that are clean, caring, and provide various evening activities. Their group home brings them to church on Sundays. What is missing from this picture?
The language of creation replaces, and transcends, the language of loss, just as it does in life. The pastoral care-giver's question is not, “What have you lost? But “What’s it like?” and “What’s happening?”
I still wonder sometimes if my friendships will last during a depression. Will they call? “How are you?” they ask. Do they want to know the painful truth? Sometimes it’s better to say “fine.”
Deacons who serve well work hard at connecting with members of the congregation, organizing ministry, and finding appropriate resources. This final installment on deacons and people with disabilities suggests ideas for ministry and provides some resources to implement those ideas.
To minister well with people who have disabilities, we need to understand the wide range of disability and the ways in which all of us can unintentionally exclude people with disabilities from the life and ministry of our churches.
The stereotypes about mental illness that our society tells us are, mostly, lies. In poem, memoir, funeral sermon, eulogy, and painting, people narrate life with mental illness through Disability Concerns’ Stories of Grace and Truth.