When I was 5 years old and had been in care for nearly all my life I met my new foster parents. I was given a plate of biscuits and had to offer them to my new parents as they had a cup of tea. I carefully organised the biscuits with the chocolate ones near me and plain digestives to the front. As my Dad reached to the back of the plate I simply leaned further back as well. In front of me was my new family and a chance for a different life, but a Chocolate biscuit is a chocolate biscuit. Fortunately my new family saw this as funny rather than as a character flaw!
We may have started coming to Church because we wanted to be part of a loving community, or because we wanted to encounter God. We can end up settling for something that feels familiar and safe. The “Chocolate Biscuit” we settle for is a faith which does not challenge us or ask us to change, but becomes a set of stories we know and a way of worshiping we have grown used to. We were offered something far richer; a mysterious encounter with the living God, a new family and a place to discover our healing. We were asked to become the person God created us to be and chose something less difficult, the routine of religion.
What would happen if we refused to settle for the Chocolate Biscuit, what might God have in store for us instead? Faith could be an adventure, relationship with God could change everything we take for granted. Let’s face it Chocolate biscuits are nice, but we were created for so much more.
Church communities have always been places where people find hope, healing, a community they can be part of, and places that enable them to make changes to their lives. These are qualities that make us really good partners in supporting people’s recovery. As I seek to engage in a life that is meaningful to me, having a community that cares about me and believes in me is incredibly important. For those of us who sometimes are challenged by our own mental health, Church can be a blessing and a lifeline.
Our PCC has made a commitment to being a Recovery Friendly Church and as part of this we asked ourselves five questions;
1 what gives people hope at St Matthews
2 what happens here that enables healing.
3 how do we enable people to engage with the things that matter to them?
4 how do we make our community accessible to everyone?
5 if someone walked into our Church, how would they know these things happen here?
This was not an excercise in finding fault but primarily about celebrating what is good. We can sometimes feel that being Recovery Friendly is a huge challenge, often it is about having confidence in what we already do and understanding the contribution we are making. I wonder if these are questions your Church might like to explore or already are? Do feel free to comment.
Recovery Friendly Church is a network of Churches committed to supporting good mental health and wellbeing in our Churches and Communities. It works with the Recovery model and recognises the unique contribution Churches can make to supporting people in their recovery. Recovery is seen as the process that enables someone struggling with mental health issues to engage with life on their terms. It may mean learning to live with symptoms or finding ways of managing them. For some people faith will be an important part of that Recovery. Here people might discover hope that things can be different, that tomorrow need not be like today. When we realise that we are more than our diagnosis and that we still have hopes and desires we are engaging with our healing. The Church can be part of enabling a person to engage with those hopes and dreams and provide a nurturing Community that supports that journey. We are not professionals and can not replace professional services, but we can offer something different. Places of friendship and support that value and empower everyone regardless of their mental health or well being issues. For more information please contact Rev Patrick Jordan or visit our facebook page. Recovery Friendly Church Norfolk.
I remember feeling incredibly uneasy at visiting a Church I was unfamiliar with, having a sense that there might be something here that I wanted but no knowledge of what it was or how to access it. Communities are great but if your on the outside of them, they can feel excluding. Churches are strange spaces as well, their buildings and artwork creating symbols that may not be immediately accessible. The services use language and ideas that are unfamiliar and may need explaining. All of these things can leave you feeling that this odd space is outside of your experience and yet point to a mystery you wish to engage with. The language the Church uses for this is mystery, we are not being odd on purpose, it’s just that we are trying to describe something incredibly surprising; you and I, indeed everything that exists was created by someone and continues to exist because that same someone loves us. The mystery of God’s love inspires art, music and worship. It all seems a little strange at first, but that stems from our belief that there is more going on in the world than we first percieve, that everything is somehow more mysterious and more wonderful than we realised.
Andrei Rublev’s Icon, the hospitality of Abraham is a good example of this. There are three figures (angels?) with identical faces are gathered around a table.What does it mean? The picture is taken from a story in the book of Genesis, three figures visit Abraham who are revealed to be God. Abraham shows lavish hospitality and they sit under the shade of an oak tree, where they are given a meal, and promise Abraham that he will be a father, which causes his now elderly wife Sarah to laugh. The idea that three figures could represent God seems to Christians to be a picture of the Trinity (God being Father, Son and Holy Spirit and yet one God) in the first book of the bible and was a scene painted a number of times. The Father wears Gold, the Son has a stripe on his shoulder which was worn by the emperor and the Spirit wears green, the colour of growth and renewal. The figures are gathered around a table and our view of them in unimpeeded, there is a space for us at the table to join the meal and the conversation. This is where the link with Church lies, there is a mystery here and an invitation. Some things are strange, three figures who turn out to be one God, some things are familiar, sitting ar a table to join a meal. The message seems to me to be, this is mysterious (mystical?) but don’t be alarmed you are welcome here, and the needs that have drawn you to consider this mystery will be met here.
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