Reflecting on our conversation; planning for more
n January 26, a group of 26 of us got together for a conversation on the subject of depression. An odd thing for a church to do? Well, late last winter, our community was faced with a reality none of us much wants to think about, when one of our very active and very engaged members chose to end his own life. Nearly everyone’s reaction was something like, “Really? I had no idea he was even depressed…”
Well, it got some of us thinking that maybe it was time to organize a bit of a conversation around depression and its impact on individuals, families and communities. To this end, we invited Stephanie Loewen – a person with significant experience in community mental health and someone who has herself struggled with depression – to come and help us initiate something of a group reflection on this stuff. Stephanie’s story was very personal and moving, yet within that first-person narrative approach she embedded a great deal of solid and practical information. I guess, though, as a community of believers who seek to be followers of Jesus of Nazareth, we shouldn’t be surprised by the teaching power of story.
What I was aware of as we moved to the conclusion of this gathering was just how many other people were carrying stories that they wanted to share. At one point along the way, I cited something that the liturgical theologian Robert Webber once said to a group at a clergy conference: “Our churches need to be the sort of places where it is okay to be a hurting person.” I think that there in that space, it felt “okay” to have experiences of struggle and hurt. In fact, the chapel in which we met was almost buzzing with a kind of energy; it just felt like it was safe and good and right to tell the truth about the things with which we struggle.
To this end, we will be setting up another evening of conversation, so that others can have the opportunity to do some of their own story-telling. Keep an eye on this site for further information.
And a word of thanks to all who came out and contributed, either by offering some piece of experience or by listening with both grace and openness.