Revd Dr Louise Castle looks back on a successful training day, held by the Sheffield Diocesan Advisory Group for Healing and Wholeness on the 25th February.
What an amazing day! Fifty of us gathered in the beautiful setting of Todwick to learn about enabling Renew well-being spaces in our churches, listening skills and mental health awareness. We heard from two amazing speakers, talked, shared ideas and ate together, and then took part in a simple healing service.
Ruth Rice, an empowering and invigorating speaker and Baptist Minister, started our day with prayer. She shared her lived experience of struggling with burnout, her journey back to health and her learning en route. From this grew the Renew Wellbeing charity, which helps churches open Wellbeing Spaces of welcome and inclusion where it is ‘ok to not be ok’, simply known by name, with a part to play.
We learned from Ruth how the church language of well-being can be unhelpful. When she was really struggling, the only thing she heard God say was ‘Ruth, I could not love you any more and I will never love you any less’. This simple message is all we need to hear.
Wellbeing Spaces are places for people to meet, socialise and share their hobbies alongside a quiet space for prayer. Thus, faith is not necessary but a rhythm of prayer is always available, and easy to join in with. This enables everyone to connect, take notice and be in partnership, including those who hover on the fringe of church for one reason or another, who Ruth calls ‘the car park people’. The important thing is to really listen, to offer companionship, share hobbies and respect solitude, not seeking to fix, but signposting people to get the professional help they might need.
Every church can have a Renew Wellbeing space – not necessarily in the church but maybe in the community. For example, Renew 37 in Nottingham partners with the café next door to share premises and provide café services. Currently 250 Renew Wellbeing spaces exist across the UK, with many run by Ecumenical teams. Free training and support are provided. As yet there are none in Sheffield – if you, like me, would like to change this, please get in touch!
Next, Andy Freeman reminded us that when we set up any sort of renew well-being space we would confront experiences and needs we may not have met before and would need to come to terms with our own mental health experience. Andy, a CMS lay pioneer, founded Space to Breathe, a mental health and well-being organisation, which brings spirituality, mental health and wellbeing together. He too has lived experience of mental health problems, a key factor in founding Space to Breathe.
Andy helped us build awareness of mental health and well-being in church settings, giving useful techniques to help us listen, walk alongside and signpost better; to be more aware of our boundaries and role as a church family. He equipped us to be more aware of power, threat and meaning and to remember to pause, breathe and listen. How to enable us all to be ourselves a bit more to the full…
What rich learning we shared, followed by worship, the Healing Team sharing a simple Ionian healing service. We left invigorated, full of ideas to share with our teams and mission areas. This event was fully booked and will be repeated to allow more to take part. Comments included; ‘wonderful and so relevant’ and ‘a real sense of something being birthed here’! Excitingly Ruth has offered to come back and run a 1.5 hr in-person training session for the Diocese! Watch this space.
For more information please get in touch,
Rev. Dr Louise Castle, Bishop’s Advisor in Healing and Wholeness firstname.lastname@example.org