We are WISE – a Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, and Engaged congregation.
On May 21, 2017, Mountain View United Church publicly accepted its already-present ministry of inclusion for people and families living with mental health challenges by adopting to covenant as a Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, and Engaged congregation.
Pastor Tracy stated our church has a special “charisma” for welcoming, including and supporting the leadership of individuals living with mental illness (including the effects of profound trauma, like PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), trauma, brain disorders such as dementia, and neurological development differences like Autism or learning disabilities. Acknowledging the charisma of one’s congregation can be challenging; it is not something the congregation gets to choose. We, like the Corinthians, can feel tempted to ask God for charisma that seems impressive in the larger community, like the gift of drawing huge crowds of those looking for a church community for each Sunday’s worship, but Paul reminds us that the gifts of our community are not about what we want to do, but instead what God wants us to do serve all God’s children.
Here at MVUC, we have a tremendous charisma for welcoming into worship and leadership people living with mental health challenges and because this congregation does this so effortlessly, we may not recognize how badly this charisma is needed in our community and the Universal Church. Recent research studies find that over a quarter of all U.S. individuals and families dealing with mental health challenges seek help from their church and its pastor first. Yet, most pastors and church leaders have little education in mental health, so resort to telling people in a mental health crisis to “pray harder” for the problem to “be healed.”
A quick Google search of “mental health ministry” will reflect this reality, bringing up many denominational resolutions on welcoming those living with mental health challenges and brain differences, but few of these churches are actively reaching out to welcome the great gifts and possible challenges of people living with any kind of difference or disability. In fact, the first church that comes up in a Google search for mental health ministry is First Congregational Church of Boulder, a UCC church that pioneered the concept of the WISE Covenant for Mental Health. Churches carefully listening to God’s call have long used their charisma to further justice and the well-being of those struggling with illness or difference.
Ask Amy about her Mental Health and Inclusion Blog