Crawling beneath a rock
I’ve been a Minister for over twenty five years now and during this time, for about ten years, I sought to engage with the wider church scene. I attended Minister’s Conferences, led a local Pastor’s Fraternal, took part in Workshops and counselled individuals with mental health problems. I had two aims: first to share the fruits of my PhD studies in Ethics and second to enable Pastor’s to better help those in their congregations suffering a mental health problem. It seemed to me then, as it still does now, that many Pastors do not have the correct theoretical framework from which to offer the right support to people experiencing either depression or anxiety. Too often a Minister will tell a suffering individual that his problem is down either to unconfessed sin, a lack of faith or the attacks of Satan. I wanted to show that Christians, just like anyone else, can suffer depression and anxiety for reasons that are exactly the same as anyone else; unhelpful thinking, unresolved trauma and dysfunctional relationships. I wanted to offer a psychology of mental health experience for Christians rather than just accepting that everything must be spiritual.
So I hoped that engagement, curiosity, openness, dialogue, willingness to learn and the exchange of ideas would be characteristic of the culture of Ministers. Instead I found suspicion, hostility, closed mindedness, entrenched positions and an unwillingness to learn from the skills and knowledge of others. I found the whole thing bruising, disappointing and terribly depressing. So I decided that enough for me was enough and decided, as one colleague once said to me, ‘to crawl back under my rock’. I think I’m here to stay. One strange thing though: some of the Ministers who were once so hostile to what I had to say still ring me asking if I will help their members with their personal struggles! Explain that one!