Pathways to Promise is an interfaith cooperative of many faith groups… a resource center which offers liturgical and educational materials, program models, caring ministry with people experiencing a mental illness and their families.
This pack, which can be downloaded as a PDF document was collaboratively produced by the Church of England’s mental health group and Time to Change, a mental health advocacy organization based in the UK, and edited by the Rev. Eva McIntyre to offer “…ideas and resources for churches to plan worship on the theme of mental health.” The goal is that, through worship on the theme, congregations will be able to foster a safe environment to begin conversations about mental health.
The Housing Faith Alliance (HFA), a program of Abba’s Family, is building bridges of connectivity between the faith community and formerly homeless mentally ill men and women in different neighborhoods across Tulsa. The alliance seeks to transform the faith community in this city through relationships of service with individuals who are poor, homeless, or who have mental illness.
Many formerly homeless individuals, however, are shy, lonely and afraid to reach out to others, and do not have close friends or strong support systems. Many want to be a part of making their neighborhoods a better place to live. Many say that matters of faith and their relationship with God are very important to them. Meanwhile, faith communities want to reach out but do not know how. Stigma and fear are formidable challenges to overcome.
The HFA seeks justice and mercy for the poor through the transformational power of faith infused relationships. The HFA is in collaboration with 20 or so faith communities in 5 different Tulsa neighborhoods and includes 12 different housing programs.
As one of those faith communities, St. John’s Episcopal Church hosted Evening Prayer for the HFA on May 14th, providing an opportunity for formerly homeless persons with mental illness, the Parish of St. John’s, and the workers and volunteers of the HFA to pray and join in fellow ship together.
The Executive Director of HFA is Bob Althoff, LCSW, LMFT, who can be reached at Info@AbbasFamily.org. An Episcopal board member of the Housing Faith Alliance, Br. James Patrick Hall, BSG, can be reached at email@example.com
The December holidays are not all joy and light. For many, it is a hard time. Some loved one will be absent from the Christmas table. Our lives don’t live up to the idealistic Christmas scenes of hearth and home. We don’t look like figures in a Norman Rockwell painting. Some suffer from seasonal affective disorders. When it seems like the whole world is happily stringing decorations, we can feel sad and out of step with the festive emotions.
A Blue Christmas service can be a holy container to honor those emotions and losses. We hold our service in the evening, near the winter solstice, when the days are shortest and the nights are long. We use the lections for St. Thomas (Dec. 21). St. Thomas was the apostle who missed the resurrection appearances of Jesus on Easter. While the other disciples were rejoicing, “We have seen the Lord,” Thomas’ mind was filled with the all-to-real images of his friend’s death on the cross. “Until I see…” something as real as that, “I will not believe,” Thomas said.
We start in a darkened, quiet church. We use the Order of Worship for the Evening, BCP p. 109, as a Liturgy of the Word, lighting candles at the altar and in the windows. The sermon tries to allow people to honor the difficult work of grief and disappointment in the midst of a festive season. During the Eucharist, we invite people to light vigil candles for remembered loved ones or other appropriate intentions. We have a place for laying on of hands with prayer.
The mood is contemplative — quiet, accepting, healing. We’ve found this gentle, dark space, held within the December bustle, is a treasured holy space for tender things. For some, it is a space to place deep loss so we can open more fully to the coming joy of Christmas.
Contributed by The Rev. Lowell Grisham, Rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Fayetteville, Arkansas. firstname.lastname@example.org