Recovering friendly church – join the conversation

Published on: 1 September 2017

The Revd Patrick Jordan extends an invitation to join a new network in the diocese discovering how we can practically approach the issue of mental health illness and wellbeing in our local communities.

If you think for a moment about what makes your church special, you may come up with words like community, or friendly, you might remember how your church family has looked after you, or how you have cared for others going through a hard time. Simon Cowell is in the habit of telling people that they don’t know how good they are.

It is certainly true that many of us are unaware of how much our church community has to offer or how much healing happens because of the friendships that exist in our congregation. We create places of community, hope, healing and we support one another in our own recovery.

I got involved when a local drop-in closed in my parish, and so we opened Front Room a twice weekly drop-in for the local community. About 80 per cent of our members had a mental health issue they were managing. We discovered that as a church-based drop-in, we were not see as part of the professional services that our members accessed, and that meant our contribution was different.

We were able to create a drop-in that our members owned, and they made decisions about. It was not perfect and we certainly made mistakes, but the relationships formed there were valued and part of what helped our members engage with their own recovery. One of the big surprises was how enthusiastic our local mental health trust was to see churches getting involved. They saw the church as having something special to offer, and worked with a network of faith groups, offering training and visiting our drop-in on a regular basis.

For some churches a drop-in might be the right approach, in others it might be creating a befriending service, and in others it might be thinking about the services you already run and how those might be made more accessible. No two churches are the same, but we do have some things in common.

Recovery Friendly Church is a network of churches and individuals that think about how we support each other’s well-being and mental health. We do so recognising that we are faith communities, shaped by the life of Jesus and the love of God. We nurture friendships and have a story of hope and healing at our heart.

We are not experts, trying to compete with professionals. But we do have a unique contribution to make in supporting people’s recovery. We might benefit from thinking about how we let people know that the church is a safe and healing place, or how we can address our own fears around mental health and so reduce stigma, or explore how recovery involves things the church understands well like, healing, hope, empowerment and community.

It might be that you would like help with doing some of that thinking, or you would like to be signposted to some of the services available; if so people contact me on 01603 494015 or at ericngevpxwbeqna@tznvy.pbz

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