Including those in church who have mental illnesses

We had a lovely Parish weekend away at Wychcroft and Dianna Gwilliams who is our Dean came to spend some time with us. One question that she asked was how we include people who have mental illnesses in our churches. It was a question that we pondered a little later on in the evening.

One person shared that prayers like the Prayer of Humble Access:

“Lord I am not worthy to gather up the crumbs from under your table”

and indeed the whole of the Lenten liturgies are difficult for those who already feel unworthy and hopeless, they come to church feeling bad and leave feeling worse.

Also, it is hard to do what everyone else is doing during the service when you are depressed, but even harder not to. An example was given that it may be hard to stand during the Eucharistic Prayer, so someone may choose to sit down, but of they are depressed then they may feel like everyone is judging them for being seated, and the internal dialogue in their head will be shrieking that they are drawing attention to themselves. The same person when they are well can either stand or sit and all is well.

I once experienced worship where there was a thin, dark curtain between the worship and the coffee area. I was feeling depressed but found I could sit in the coffee area and listen to the worship but felt free to leave without being seen, which paradoxically enabled me to stay. One conclusion we reached was it is always helpful if there is no compulsion.

I’m not sure what we can do about Lent though… any ideas?

2 thoughts on “Including those in church who have mental illnesses”

  1. I think we have to listen. Listen to as many people as we know who have experienced what it is like living with mental illness, whether personally carrying that burden or whether caring for someone. Then share ideas. One way will not work for all. And we all need to learn to be tolerant and patient. Whatever way we find to move forward, count me in, it means a great deal to me.

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