In May our congregation, Akron Mennonite Church, had a special service to mark Mental Health Awareness Month. Rather than have a sermon, we had input from individuals in our congregation who had been asked these questions:
- What would you like this congregation to know about mental illness?
- What have you learned about what helps us stay mentally healthy?
- How do you see the role of this congregation in helping you (or your clients) stay healthy?
Each of these people was asked to suggest a scripture or song for the service.
At the beginning of the service the men’s choir sang one of the chosen songs: “Jesus the Light of the World.” We had a candlelighting service with seven people from the congregation coming forward and reading part of the following prayer which is on the NAMI website
- We light the candle of Truth that God will help us dispel ignorance and misinformation about major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, severe anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. (Silent prayer)
- We light the candle of Healing that troubled minds and hearts, broken lives and relationships might be healed. (Silent prayer)
- We light the candle of Understanding that the darkness of stigma, labels, exclusion and marginalization might be dispelled for the sake of those touched by mental illness. (Silent prayer)
- We light the candle of Hope for persons and families living with mental illness, for better treatment, for steadier recovery, for greater opportunity to work and serve. (Silent prayer)
- We light the candle of Thankfulness for compassionate, dedicated caregivers and mental health professionals; for new discoveries in brain research and better medications. (Silent prayer)
- We light the candle of Faith to dispel doubt and despair for those who have lost hope and are discouraged. (Silent prayer)
- We light the candle of Steadfast Love to remind us of God’s love and faithfulness, and to remind us to share the light of love and service for those living with mental illness. (Silent prayer)
We heard from two counselors, and two men who spoke from their own experience, one having experienced addiction and one who has bipolar disorder. Each spoke for an average of five minutes and this was interspersed with songs or scripture that had been suggested. Our pastor wove all the elements together and served as worship leader. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
How do you support and encourage people in your congregation who experience mental illness?
is the National Alliance for Mental Illness and is a good resource for information and support.]