Comfort My People: Mental Health Ministries in Healthy Congregations
The Presbytery of St. Augustine has received a $10,000 grant to fund a year-long initiative that we are calling, “Comfort My People: Mental Health in Healthy Congregations.”
As a focus of our initiative, Susan Lee, LCSW, a member of Highlands United Presbyterian Church, will serve as a consultant/coach with congregations in our Presbytery. Susan will be available to lead programs and intergenerational activities, provide workshops for congregational leaders, meet with resource people and identify appropriate referrals for mental health support near you. More details will follow in November.
As it develops, this work will focus on three areas with a goal of including as many of our 58 congregations as possible:
- To expand mental health awareness, understanding of mental issues and advocacy for mental health services.
- To eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness, and especially serious mental illnesses.
- To become more welcoming, inclusive and supportive faith communities for people living with mental health challenges.
If you’d like to help break down the stigma of mental illness, or for more information about implementing this new ministry in the presbytery, you can contact Chris Lieberman (Relationship Coordination Director) at email@example.com. Or, call 502-475-8025.
This will begin with one person at a time and one congregation at a time as we share our stories and open ourselves to God’s power for compassion care. We are inviting you to help educate, equip and empower one another to be who we are – Christ’s communities of care – to (and with) people living with mental health conditions and their loved ones.
Pam Parker gave one expression to this ministry of creating safe spaces in churches to honestly be herself in an article she wrote for the March 11, 2019 issue of Presbyterian Outlook. In this excerpt Ms. Parker relates a stewardship presentation which turned into an opportunity to share a fuller part of herself in church – which is a true gift:
I am fortunate to belong to Wauwatosa Presbyterian Church in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Our co-pastors, Jim Rand and Brett Swanson, have nurtured a supportive community of faith. Our tradition is to have members speak for a few minutes in the weeks before we turn in pledges about why we give. I was asked to share my story one Sunday. After meeting and listening to Anne Lamott who was touring for her book “Almost Everything: Notes on Hope” I was preparing to share an optimistic, hope-filled testimony. But that morning I woke to the news of the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Like so many others, I found myself asking: How can this happen again? Why?
I plunged from the high of Anne Lamott’s hope-filled words to the darkness of violent deaths. I had difficulty praying. An optimistic, hopeful account of why I give to my church was no longer possible. Instead, I shared that sometimes I give for my own hard times – for the awareness that when depression clouds my thinking, I know there are others in my faith community who will be praying for me. I felt safe sharing authentically and sincerely from my heart. Thanks to the trust our pastors have sustained for us, I know my ability to be open in my church has helped others.
Listen and learn
Depression is hard to understand if you have no experience with it yourself. It can manifest in different ways at different times. If you try to speak with someone who does not understand depression, the divide can seem unconquerable. It is not.
My favorite resource to share with people who want to better understand the struggles some face with depression is a podcast created by two sisters, Terry and Bridget: “Giving Voice to Depression.” They offer a comfortable range of topics shared with guests that present a wide spectrum of experiences with depression. As they say on their website:
“We’re not therapists or experts. But we battle depression and have lost family members and friends by suicide. It’s in their honor that we began this project. It is our hope and commitment to increase awareness and reduce the stigma and isolation of depression, one story at a time. These stories could truly save lives.”
Terry and Bridget understand only too well the connection between depression and suicide. Like them, I believe that sharing stories can save lives.
Submitted by Tracy Martin & Del Smith
Is a church that is 40 years old an old church? Well, if you compare this age with some European churches, such as the recently damaged Notre Dame in Paris, or even churches in nearby St. Augustine, 40 years is only a tick of the clock. But in a city that has been a city for only 20 years, a 40 year old church is a venerable institution.
This year Trinity Presbyterian Church, located on the corner of Florida Park Drive and Palm Harbor Parkway, is 40 years old. It all began in 1979 when the Presbytery of Northeast Florida (now the Presbytery of St Augustine) purchased 5 acres of land on this corner and dispatched the Rev. James Tinsley to knock on doors to find Presbyterians or potential Presbyterians among the new residents of the fledgling community.
The first worship service of the new congregation was held in November of 1979 in the YMCA building, which later became the Community Center. This space was shared with another new congregation that became St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. Trinity was officially chartered on Palm Sunday, 1980.
Meanwhile, building was progressing, and the first sanctuary on the corner of Florida Park and Palm Harbor was dedicated on April 5, 1981. This original sanctuary is now the church’s fellowship hall and is called Mehaffey Hall, named for Trinity’s second installed Pastor, the Rev. George Mehaffey who came to Palm Coast in 1985 and served for 10 years until his retirement in 1995.
During Dr. Mehaffey’s tenure much building was happening, both in congregational growth and in new structures. The first addition to the church building occurred in 1987 with a wing that included a library, fellowship hall, and office. The present structure was completed and dedicated in 1995, just before Dr. Mehaffey’s retirement, and includes the present sanctuary.
The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey DeYoe was installed as Pastor in 1997 and served until 2007; Rev. Dr. D. Ronald Watson served from 2009 until 2018, and is now Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Ocala. The congregation is presently served by Interim Pastor Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Beebe. Dr. Jeffrey Beebe conducts services every Sunday at 10:00 a.m.
Trinity has long been involved in community concerns, from the Family Life Center, the Flagler Resource Center, to the Family Food Program. Today Trinity also sponsors Scout Pack #281, and a Presbyterian Counseling Center.
Although Palm Coast was vastly different in 1979, Trinity continues to provide a special worship space and fellowship for the community 40 years later. Some of the founding members from 1979 still worship at Trinity today!
Past ministers and members will return to Trinity for a celebration Service on Sunday, November 10, 2019 at 4:00 pm.
Trinity Presbyterian Church
156 Florida Park Dr.
Palm Coast, FL 32137
The Presbytery of St. Augustine has received a grant from the PC(USA) that will begin in November 2019. We will release more details in the coming weeks but here is a snapshot of our grant proposal.
Our initiative is called, Comfort My People: Mental Health in Healthy Congregations
Susan Lee, LCSW, a member of Highlands United Presbyterian Church, will serve as our consultant/coach in this presbytery-wide initiative to educate, equip and empower churches to reach out to and with people living with mental health conditions and their loved ones.
Our goal is to include as many of our 58 congregations as possible during our Year of Unity and Diversity:
- To expand mental health awareness, understanding of mental health issues and advocacy for mental health services.
- To eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness, especially serious mental illnesses.
- To become more welcoming, inclusive and supportive faith communities for people living with mental health conditions.
For more information, or if you would like to become involved in this ministry, please contact: Chris Lieberman, Relationship Coordination Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the PC(USA) Mental Health Ministry, including downloadable educational resources, visit: www.pcusa.org/mentalhealth
Photo from the PC(USA) Mental Health Ministry website.
The 2019 Fall Stated Meeting was held at MPCC on October 1, 2019. We began with worship! Our joy continued as we welcomed new friends, conducted important business, and concluded the meeting with a delicious fellowship lunch! Here are a few photo highlights.
Pastor’s Retreat in Matanzas Presbytery in Cuba
Rev. Tom Walker Retires from Palms Presbyterian Church
After 17 years as Pastor of Palms Presbyterian Church (Jacksonville Beach), the Rev. Tom Walker is retiring effective September 7. Tom and his wife, Jan, have relocated to St. Simons Island, GA, where they will “rest, renew, and maybe even find time to play a round of golf or two, enjoy long walks with our golden Obie, fish, and possibly write a book or two.” He will continue to serve at Columbia Seminary as board chair. Blessings on your retirement as the Palms community begins a new chapter in their life together as a congregation.
Rev. Bob Shettler Retires from First Presbyterian, Gainesville
First Presbyterian Church, Gainesville celebrated the ministry of Rev. Bob Shettler as he retired on August 25. After 14 years as Pastor, Bob and his wife Connie plan to enjoy their retirement in Gainesville. They are looking forward to spending time with their daughters and five school-age grandchildren. The presbytery wishes the Shettlers well in their retirement, as the congregation begins their search for their next pastor.