Rest – Enjoy – Pray

Published on: 1 September 2017

As I write this I have recently returned from a General Synod meeting in York. We go to York each year in early July, meeting and staying on York University campus; it is a delightful setting and usually the atmosphere is noticeably more relaxed and friendly than when we meet in the business-like atmosphere of Church House in London.

That change in atmosphere can often help change the tone of debate. There were distinct signs of grumpiness on the day we started, but it was striking how that gave way to a much ‘gentler-with-each-other’ approach throughout the weekend. I’m sure the setting contributed to that.

One of the key items of business was to do with a couple of changes to Canon Law in relation to funeral services. Previous generations had not thought it right to have the funeral service used both for those who were not baptised and for those who had taken their own lives. The logic for the first was that the funeral service was designed for those who were (however loosely) members of the church and that baptism is what makes you a member. The logic for the second was that the taking of your own life was seen as a major (‘mortal’) sin with no possibility of repenting and therefore receiving forgiveness; this would in effect puts you out of the church.

In reality (and thank God), most of us have not worked strictly to either of these rules for many years: God’s grace and mercy are not, and never have been, limited by our human perceptions and feelings – nor by the parameters of earthly existence. So, as is quite often the case, General Synod was playing catch-up. There was a good and compassionate debate and, I think, unanimous agreement that Her Majesty should be petitioned for an amendment to the relevant Canon.

One of the speeches made the following point: “inevitably distress affects the state of everyone’s mental health”; someone else pointed out (I think it was our own Caroline Herbert) that whatever the “soundness of mind”, compassion and care will be the hallmarks of God’s response and need therefore to be visible in the church. The whole debate was marked by the increase in understanding that our states of mind are to do with health and illness and that all of us will have times when that is rocked a little. Both Prince Harry’s and Prince William’s roles in this have been immensely helpful.

Of course, recognising this does not let us off taking responsibility for trying to ensure that the way we lead our lives helps rather than hinders the quality of our mental health. Circumstances, and indeed our own characters, will dictate a great deal, but there are certain measures we can take ourselves.

We can try and make sure we have enough rest and relaxation built into our lives. Modern western life can militate in other directions – and church life is not exempt! Nonetheless, holding on to the space and time to relax is critical. So too is being true to ourselves – not just the selves we think we are, but also the selves that God intends. This will involve time and attention to what God is saying to us, as well as an honest rejoicing in whom we are. I think that all points to three things: Rest; Enjoyment and Prayer.

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Articles in this issue...

The battle on the front line of mental health service funding

I am often asked from where my interest in mental health stems, and partly it is born out of personal experience. I had postnatal depression and, although not severe in comparison to others, it was enough to make me aware.


Championing Mental Health at Norwich Cathedral

Andy Bryant explores the way the Cathedral is helping those struggling with their mental health.


Mental health first aid

As a volunteer with North Breckland Youth for Christ I work with a variety of young people in school lunch clubs, youth cafés and other events. Over the years I’ve seen young people struggling with their emotions and mental wellbeing for reasons such as bullying, bereavement, and family breakdown.


I would stop at nothing to end everything

Ten per cent of children and young people (ages 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental problem yet 70 per cent of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age*. Norfolk teenager Hannah Green share her story of how her faith has helped.


Wellbeing in church schools

Working in our church schools is a real privilege. It is so rewarding to see children develop, acquire new skills and interests and make great progress during their formative years.


Priest in the night

Dialling 999 here gets you in touch with our police, ambulance or fire services. There is a very different approach in Sweden. Phone their national emergency number 112 at night-time and you are also given the option to speak to a priest on duty from the Church of Sweden. Canon pastor of the cathedral of Stockholm, Ulf Lindgren, has spent many nights on the helpline.


Churches can provide mental health friendly communities

Emilie Ruddick, mental health professional in North Norfolk explains how churches are stepping up to support their local communities.


Recovering friendly church – join the conversation

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.


Hearing Voices – sharing experiences of struggles with mental health

Hearing Voices is a forum organised between Norwich cathedral with the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust and the Hertfordshire Partnership Foundation Trust where people can come and share their struggles with mental health.


After the fire came a gentle whisper

Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, forgive our foolish ways; these words open a hymn that begins softly but builds to the tremendous crescendo of the final verse where we confront earthquake, wind and fire only to find God in the still small voice of calm.


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