Dear Siblings in Christ:
Today at noon, is our weekly call about pastoral care in this strange moment (you can join using this information: Click on this link – https://meetings.ringcentral.com/j/8278690536 or call 773-231-9226 and use Meeting ID: 827 869 0536). Since our very first conversation, those who gathered recognized that this period of social distancing would be hard for everyone at points and be particularly hard for those already facing a sense of isolation. Many churches and church members have begun to put together systems to reach out to those members of their congregation and community who might otherwise be facing this moment, alone.
One of the dangers of this moment is that in the same way hospitals are finding themselves filled beyond their capacity by those whose bodies have been overwhelmed by COVID-19, the institutional systems we have may also find themselves stretched past their capacity trying to serve those hungering for connection, love, and life. In the same way we’re being asked to distance ourselves physically in order to help limit the impact on overtaxed medical systems, we have to recognize the recommendation to reach out to each other as one of the ways to limit the impact on overtaxed social, mental health, and religious systems. It is no one’s fault that they might come to a point where they need more acute mental health and spiritual care. The systems we have in place are there because that need is a normal part of life. However, we’re in this extraordinary moment when the simple act of washing our hands helps save the world. We’re also in this extraordinary moment when calling someone or sending an email or even waving to a neighbor helps save the world, too.
Just to be clear, I’m not talking about those moments someone is thinking about hurting themselves or others; trying to deal with an addiction cycle; or stuck in some sort of downward spiral you needed help with in the past. If you are feeling as though your thinking or behavior is putting your life is at risk, you should seek help right now. Calling 911, your doctor, your therapist, or visiting some of the resources at https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/immediate-help is a good place to start. Washington’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness also has some resources you might find helpful.
Although this moment of necessary physical distancing is situationally different than some of those moments in life when I’ve felt loneliness and depression creeping up on me, there are similarities and I’m planning on using some of the same tools. I’m planning on the reality that, at some point, I’m going to be feeling frayed and I’m also trying to do what I can to limit the fraying, proactively. For me, praying and journaling are anchors in my life. Connecting with God and observing my life – with the least amount of cyclic rumination as possible – helps me recenter. Another practice is to pause, think of someone who has it worse off than me, reach out to them, and see how they’re doing. Still, another is to call a friend and just talk about life. These are simple things that seem harder to do at sometimes than others but always seem to help. This is a good time to think about the coping mechanisms you already have and start to think about developing others. Rev. Dr. Sarah Lund (the UCC Minister for Disabilities and Mental Health Justice) also recommends taking a look at the Wellness Recovery Action Plan Workbook. Although designed for members of the military, it might also help some of us put together a plan for this moment.
This time will end. There will be a time when the flow of relationships and our normal practices of taking care of our mental and spiritual health will be more easily accessible to us. In the meantime, preparing and planning for more difficult moments in this extreme situation is a part of our humble walk with God. May we feel God’s presence as we move through these challenging times.
Rev. Mike Denton
You can give to the ministries of the Pacific Northwest Conferenceby going to www.pncucc.org and clicking on the “Donate” button.
Follow me on Twitter @denton_rev