|National Alliance on Mental Illness
page printed from
A Christian Worship Service
I will copy below a portion of a regular Sunday Worship Service at my church held on October 19, 2003. This entire service (two services attended by a total of about 1700) people was devoted entirely to Faith and Mental Illness. Being in a Christian church, this service is from a Christian perspective.
I urge all of you not to be discouraged in your own places of worship, regardless of how many times you have met obstacles in the past. As I have previously mentioned, when I get discouraged I refer to a quote by Robert Louis Stevenson that I first saw on the packaging for a loaf of bread. "Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant."
I further urge you to try and try again for an opportunity to speak to those in your congregations that don't understand the challenges of being affected by both a mental illness and its associated stigma. The following service developed out of the simple request to our senior pastor, "May we have an entire church service that will focus on mental illness and the challenges faced by those with these disorders?"
We must avoid talking to just the "choir." The stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness will not be brought to an end until we succeed in widening our audience.
Trinity United Presbyterian Church
Santa Ana, CA -- October 19, 2003
PREPARATION FOR WORSHIP
(Written at the beginning of the bulletin to be read silently as congregation is seated)
In the Lord's house all people are welcome; and today we are privileged to learn of the ministry with those with mental illness and their families. To worship in the Lord's house is to welcome all people, especially the stranger among us. Hospitality to strangers may not only lead to entertaining angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:20) but also to encountering Jesus himself in disguise (Matthew 25:35).
Rev. Roger Purdy's gave a brief talk concerning the opportunity of our congregation to reach out to those with a mental illness. It was followed by a 15 minute interview of a young man (Brian Hamill) with bipolar disorder who had just joined our church. Roger and Brian sat on stools in front of the congregation and Roger conducted a "Larry King Live" type of interview. This was followed by a 15 minute question and answer session between Brian and the audience.
Invitation to Involvement: By Susan Christiansen
(A portion of this talk at the close of the service is copied below)
I am pleased to talk to you, because I'm so aware of the significant role a congregation can play in the lives of those with a mental illness and their families.
We at Trinity can do this by following the admonition given to us by the Apostle Paul in Galations 6:2, "Carry each other's burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
Ministering with those who at no fault of their own have a serious mental illness is a wonderful opportunity. In order to do so, we don't need to be a psychiatrist, psychologist or theologian. We just need to be a friend.
Those with a serious mental illness have an irregularity in the transmission of nerve impulses in part of their brain. They have a brain defect, which makes their illness considerably more incapacitating than short-term depression or anxiety of the "worried well."
Just as a person with diabetes usually requires daily insulin in order to function normally, so do almost all persons with a mental illness require a daily medication. During the past 10 years, psychiatric medications have been highly successful, particularly when started early in the course of these brain disorders.
The primary factor in the development of these neuro-biological disorders in almost all cases is in the genes that they receive from their parents. A factor in some cases is injury to the brain, particularly injuries resulting from certain viral infections during the second trimester of pregnancy.
Mental illness is not a result of a lack of character or poor parenting. Although sometimes the signs and symptoms of mental illness are present in childhood, they usually aren't apparent until the late teens or early twenties and sometimes not until much later in life.
We have 300 children in Trinity's Sunday School. No matter how healthy they might seem now, it is probable that 30 of them will develop a serious mental illness before their 28th birthday.
The insert in today's bulletin gives the startling statistics that one in ten of us here today has a serious mental illness and one in five of us has someone in our immediate family with one of these "no fault" disorders." It also gives specific ways in which we can help carry the burden of someone with a mental illness.
I would like to emphasize the importance for all of us, whether or not mental illness is part of our lives, to seek education concerning these disorders. This opportunity will be provided for in the spring of 2004 when Trinity's Disability Ministry will provide a series of classes for youth, young adults and seniors. Also today on a patio table, we have free materials from the Orange County Alliance for the Mentally Ill.
I am not aware of anything that gives a greater feeling of inner peace than serving others, especially those who by virtue of their mental illness have been pushed to the margins of our society. We invite you to participate in this opportunity. I assure you that you will receive far more than you are able to give.
Will you please join me in reading the responsive prayer and supplication:
Responsive Prayer of Supplication:
Leader: Heavenly Father, we pray for those who are suffering.
People: Give us the wisdom to know what we can do to comfort them and be with us as we attempt to do so.
Leader: Today, we especially ask that you be with those with a mental illness. Help them to have faith that you are with them even in their most difficult times.
People: Guide us as we show them love and compassion.
Leader: We beseech you to provide understanding and direction to the leaders of our nation. Help them to recognize the needs of those who are suffering and have the desire to respond with justice and compassion.
People: Lord help us all to do the same.
All: Bless, guide and heal us. We pray in the name of Jesus, who has shown us the way. Amen.
1 in 10
One in ten of those sitting next to us in the pews every Sunday has a serious mental illness.
1 in 5
One in five families has someone in their immediate family that has a serious mental illness.
The vast majority of those affected by mental illness sit in lonely silence. They fear that rather than receiving support that they will be shunned.
What can we do as individuals and as a congregation to make those with mental illness feel welcome and safe in our midst? What can wedo to helpthem understand that God loves them and is with them even in their most difficult times?
"Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."…. Galations 6:2
How can one help carry the burden of someone who has a mental illness?
- Listen without a judgmental attitude.
- Communicate. Listen as a person, not as a learned religious figure. Share your thoughts and feelings.
- Empower by demonstrating that you believe in him or her.
- Ask what you can do to make a difference. Ask, "What can I do to help?"
- Learn about serious mental illness in order that you can have some understanding of what it is like to "walk in his or her shoes."
- If it seems indicated refer him or her to persons specially trained to help with mental illness issues. If necessary, make the appointment and/or provide transportation.
- If medication has been prescribed, reassure him or her that it is almost always necessary for those with a serious mental illness and that it can enable one to function very well.
- Reassure your friend that God is constantly with him or her, even if he or she can’t sense it at that moment.
- Follow through and come back to see your friend when he or she is feeling well.