Vicar’s Message May 2022
Since 1949, the United States has been observing Mental Health Awareness month in May. All over the country, various agencies and healthcare providers have offered various programs to promote education and understanding of mental health concerns. For too many decades, the Church (big C = universal church), as well as our broader society, have struggled to discuss mental health as a legitimate concern or to provide adequate resources to address it.
For centuries, Bible stories involving spirit or demonic possession have been written off as mental health diagnoses, as if our modern, supposedly more sophisticated sensibilities cannot fathom a world in which anyone could be possessed by something, let alone something evil. So, society has called it hallucinations, hearing voices, or some other symptom of mental health. This has only led to deep stigmatization in mental health and the dismissal of spirit influence in our lives. For if we are too advanced or evolved to believe in the influence of spirits, where has that left our belief in the Holy Spirit inhabiting us?
Fortunately, the last several years have fortunately seen the beginning of a turning tide. Finally, much of the Church is posturing as an advocate for mental health and wellness, especially here at Grace. Our wellness center has been offering mental health services since its inception and continues to seek growth. Our health and wellness fair on May 21st hopes to make our presence known in the community as a place striving to be an inclusive community where people discover a renewed sense of faith, belonging, and purpose. (If that sounds familiar, that’s because that is our vision as a congregation!) We hope you can support this event in attendance and even more so in volunteering to help it run smoothly. To further these conversations, we will be honoring Mental Health Awareness Month with a sermon series in May exploring how God’s love speaks to our mental health.
In John 14:26, Jesus gives us an image for the Holy Spirit – the Advocate. This role for the Holy Spirit has been adopted by the Church as the name of local churches, an image for spiritual exploration, and a relational understanding of the Holy Spirit. Now, we as a congregation have the opportunity to allow THE Advocate to work through us, so that we might advocate for others.
As much as the Holy Spirit led us as a congregation to venturing into this new ministry, I pray the Holy Spirit works through each of us individually to advocate for a new narrative around mental health – one in which people feel safe to discuss the ways in which mental health affects their lives and the ways in which they find healing in and through grace, the theological concept, and Grace, our community. See you at the fair.