Some studies indicate that one in five people live with schizophrenia, clinical depression, bipolar disorder, or other mental illness. In a congregation of 250, that would be 50 people.
One study reports that 43% of people in the work place have had a colleague with some form of mental illness. In a congregation of 250 adults in the work place, that would be over 100 people.
Yet in spite of this impact of mental illness, some pastors say, “we do not talk about this enough in our churches.”
That’s the feedback received by Communitas Supportive Care Society and why they’ve produced a worship resource focused around mental health. Originally released in 2015, God of All Comfort: Mental Health Resources for Church Worship has just been revised with new content. They say:
Our continued hope is that this will help us create a space where people can talk freely and safely about the challenges they face as people of faith living with mental health challenges. We hope to remove the stigma that still exists around mental illness and provide church leadership with further resources to help you support everyone in your congregation towards mental wellness.
When I received an invitation to contribute a sermon prompt to this new version, I readily agreed. After all, I had used the original worship resource a few times already, and an expanded version with fresh content would mean I could keep on using it.
Below is my modest entry in the updated God of All Comfort: Mental Health Resources for Church Worship. Please see the end of the article for the full citation and a link to download your free copy of this resource which includes prayers, poetry, song suggestions, and much more. For added value, I’ve also listed a few more links to other worship resources on mental health.
Mental Illness and the Body of Christ
1 Corinthians 12 paints a beautiful picture of the church as a body with many parts that need one another, with many gifts that work together. For a church struggling with division and competing rivalries (1 Corinthians 1:10-13), this vision was an invitation to look beyond their differences. As we consider the church and mental illness today, this text can also help us to look beyond any labels and differences to imagine a healthy way of relating to one another.
Key verses appear in brackets below, but be sure to pay attention to the entire flow of this chapter with its vivid details of hand, foot, eye, and ear. Rather than a list of do’s and don’ts, the text offers a word picture to spark our imagination.
- As the body of Christ, the church is made up of many members (verse 14), some of whom live with mental illness. According to the Canadian Mental Health Organization, 1 in 5 Canadians experience some kind of mental health problem.
- Mental illness may tend to isolate individuals and families, but the body needs of all its members (verse 21). Even those parts of the body that may seem weaker are actually indispensable (verse 22). Great contributions have been made throughout history by people who experienced major mental illness, such as artist Vincent van Gogh, writer Virginia Woolf, Nobel Laureate in economics John Nash.
- Instead of division or isolation, the different parts of the body are to have equal concern for one another (verse 25). This includes extending compassion, care, and prayer for one another.
- This also means the genuine give-and-take of friendship. People are not “projects,” but if one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part rejoices with it (verse 26). We are members of one another.
This sermon prompt is just one of the many resources available in God of All Comfort: Mental Health Resources for Church Worship, Communitas Supportive Care Society, Abbotsford, B.C., 2018. For a free download of all 50 pages of this resource, please visit Communitas Resources.
Other Worship Resources on Mental Health
Does your church talk enough about mental health and mental illness?
Why or why not?
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