My dear friends,
Many of you will have seen on the news recently that Andrew Davies, the leader of the Tories in Wales, has decided to have a break from front line politics while he deals with mental health issues brought on by contracting Covid and then the ‘flu. He said in a press statement that he had struggled with the question of whether to deal with this openly and honestly and in the end decided that it would set an example to others, to do likewise, when their mental health was going through a time of difficulty.
In a heart-warming example of cross party support at the Senedd, the Welsh Parliament, Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales, was completely understanding of Andrew Davies in his comments, wishing him well and saying that "there is always room for more kindness in our lives." And Adam Price, leader of Plaid Cymru, applauded his "brave" decision. It wasn’t that long ago that politicians would enjoy scoring points when an opponent was down and criticising someone’s weakness in admitting to mental health issues. We have come a long way! It was completely accidental that last Sunday was World Mental Health Day, which has got us all thinking.........
Whereas those who are ill with physical conditions: broken arms, legs etc, we can easily identify, people with mental health issues are not quite so easy to discern. They look just like you or me. Why wouldn’t they, they ARE people like you and me! But with them it is not damaged organs or broken bones, but damaged minds and sometimes a broken spirit.
Traditionally people used to shy away from those suffering with mental illness, or else lock them up in an asylum "for their own benefit." If it wasn’t an extreme case, they would sometimes be accommodated by a community and tolerated as "eccentric." But over the past half century or so, we have grown in our understanding of mental illness and some, like Andrew Davies, have been brave enough to be open about the mental health struggles they are experiencing and about how that is impacting on their lives and on their work.
These last 18 months have taken their toll on us all and, as well as those who have suffered the physical effects of Covid, and indeed of Long Covid, the scars imposed by Lockdown, social separation, loneliness, fear, are only now coming out. Psychotherapists I know have told me that they are inundated with new clients; employers are telling me that people are taking time off work because "They don’t feel well and cannot cope." I know of those at work who tell me that morale is low. You will know of relationships which have been tested over the past 18 months, often to breaking point. Adolescents have suffered too, forced by circumstance to depend on social media to keep in touch with friends, with the sinister side to such contact also spreading its shadow. I believe from some reports that alcohol consumption went up during Lockdown and I don’t know whether you too have sensed it, but there is a foreboding not far from the surface in many, about what this winter may bring.
We dread another Lockdown, we fear a new variant which may defy the efficacy of our current vaccines, we are concerned about another rise in the infection rate, we may feel that we have spent enough time by ourselves, dealing with the more uncomfortable parts of ourselves. And all these things, collectively, may make us manifest all manner of strange behaviour as these tensions demands to be expressed in some way.
The people whom Jesus encountered who were experiencing disturbances of the mind, at least the ones we hear about in the Gospels, were all extreme cases, thought then to be "possessed." What Jesus gave them was a gentle but clear sense of being accepted and understood, offering them an experience of sanctuary in the moment and calm in their connection with Him. He allowed them to feel that they were in a safe space in order to confide and to recover.
We would perhaps prefer mental illness not to manifest itself at all. Subconsciously we may feel threatened by it, we do not know how to deal with it. It throws to the wind our received understanding of the patterns by which we negotiate our lives. We feel uncomfortable engaging with those we believe to have a distorted view of life, which has the effect of disorientating us. But mental illness exists. People self harm, get depressed, feel suicidal, show other extreme symptoms of mental illness and may need medication as well as counselling and specialist care. We need to tread carefully, for to some of them the world is a frightening and threatening place and they simply feel unequal to dealing with it.
The God whom you and I know a little and long to know more deeply is a God who reveals to us again and again that He wants us to feel well, whole, happy, healthy, safe and serene. He reaches into discordant minds and souls as surely as He reached out to deformed bodies we hear about in the scriptures, there to create harmony, order and peace.
Just as surely as the friends of the man whose body was sick and who, in faith and trust in Christ, lowered him into Jesus’ presence through the hole in the roof, as that was the only way of him accessing Jesus because of the crowds, so we too are called to bring those who cannot bring themselves into the presence of the One who can reach into minds, memories, imaginations, as well as to broken bodies and lame limbs, there to share the harmony and healing He knows within Himself. Healing is a process, not an immediate event. All we can do, to accompany appropriate medical intervention, is to entrust those who are suffering and struggling mentally into the presence of the One who accepts, understands, feels compassion and love, for all those who are experiencing brokenness in whatever way, that He might create His wholeness and peace within them.
So let us be open to those who are in mental anguish, let us not do them the disservice of believing that they are pretending or indulging. Mental illness, mental pain, emotional illness, emotional pain, are as real as anything experienced physically and often far more difficult to treat and to heal. Let us have the commitment and the compassion to bring them into the accepting understanding and the listening love of Christ and pray that through Him they may be healed and know the peace, wholeness and wellbeing for which their broken spirits and souls so desperately long.
With blessings and best wishes,
WELCOME to our worship at St Mary’s on this, one of our special Celebration Sundays, as we are joined by our children and young people in church and as we continue our worship on Zoom. Today at both the 9.30am Eucharist in church and the 5pm Zoom service online, we shall be reflecting on the Gospel passage, which this week is Mark Chapter 10 verses 35-45. Today’s Collect, for the 20th Sunday after Trinity:
O God, the giver of life, Whose Holy Spirit wells up within your Church: By the Spirit’s gifts, equip us to live the Gospel of Christ And make us eager to do your will, That we may share with the whole creation The joys of eternal life. This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. AMEN
We will also be remembering in our prayers of intercession the people whose names you can find by following this link to our website "Services" page https://www.stmarytwick.org.uk/services and clicking on the button for 'Our Current Intercessions List'.
The hymns we shall be singing at the beginning and the end of the service this week are: 148 and 10. and the choir will be singing an anthem during the Offertory
No booking is necessary for the 9.30am church service. Please use the hand sanitizer provided before entering the church. We would ask that you place your collection envelope in the basket as you enter the church which will be brought up to the altar at the Offertory (or use the contactless/tap payment card facility close by). We would strongly recommend the wearing of facemasks throught the service for all other than those exempted from doing so on medical or age grounds. Please do not come to the church if you are displaying any Covid symptoms and please seriously consider whether it is wise to attend if you have cold or ‘flu symptoms, in fairness to others. Communion will be offered in the form of the consecrated host, which you may receive in your hands and which we would ask you to consume immediately. You are welcome to join us in the Parish Hall for refreshments after the service.
ZOOM SERVICE - 5 PM SUNDAY
We very much hope that those of you who are not able to join us in church for our service, join us online instead. This will take the same form which we have used from last April. Please have a candle, matches, bread and wine to hand.
There are three main ways to join the service: 1.click on this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85685339742 2. Go to zoom.us (or use the Zoom app) and enter the following Webinar ID: 856 8533 9742 3. If you want to join by telephone dial any of these numbers: 0203 481 5237 or 0203 481 5240 or 0131 460 1196 or 0203 051 2874 and then type in this Webinar ID when prompted: 856 8533 9742
These details are the same every week!
10 - 11 AM WEDNESDAY The church will be open for Private Prayer on Wednesdays between 10 and 11 am. If you would like to know more about the ongoing life of St Mary's and its activities , please see our website: www.stmarytwick.org.uk