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Welcoming, Inclusive, Supporting, & Engaged for Mental Health

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October 22 2015

In summer 2015 the United Church of Christ General Synod meeting in Cleveland, Ohio called upon all churches to be WISE for Mental Health. A resolution for developing Welcoming, Inclusive, Supporting, and Engaged congregations passed the synod.

In response First Central developed and adopted the following covenant at our Semi-Annual meeting on October 25, 2015.

COVENANTING TO BE A WISE CONGREGATION FOR MENTAL HEALTH

We the people of First Central Congregational United Church of Christ of Omaha, Nebraska know we are graced by the gifts, stories, and experiences of all our members, including those living with mental health challenges. We care about the whole person: body, heart, mind, and soul. We affirm the deep and constant movement of God’s Holy Spirit, seeking to bring us to the fullness of life. We believe that all people are beloved by God, and if a person has a mental health challenge that person has a right to be seen as a person first. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus made no distinction between various members of society; he did not show any partiality, but included all people in this commandment.

Sometimes individuals with mental health challenges such as brain disorders, mental health diagnoses, addictions, and trauma feel cut off from God and do not feel included. We proclaim that God loves all of us equally. People with mental health challenges have gifts to be offered in our faith community, and we want to welcome, include, support, and engage all people in the life, work and leadership of our church.

We the First Central Congregational United Church of Christ of Omaha, Nebraska vote to declare ourselves a welcoming, inclusive, supportive and engaged (WISE) congregation for mental health.

Call to action:

We pledge to create a welcoming environment for people with mental health challenges and their families:
• We pledge to educate ourselves and offer educational opportunities to help our whole congregation understand the implications of this covenant and the issues surrounding mental health challenges such as mental illnesses, brain disorders, addictions, and trauma.
• In an effort to reduce social stigma, we pledge to examine our own attitudes and preconceived notions about mental health challenges and mental health and to confront our own ingrained stigma.
• We pledge to actively welcome those with mental health challenges into our faith community and provide a safe environment in which people can tell their stories and share their journeys.

We pledge to include people with mental health challenges in the life, work and leadership of the congregation:
• We commit to recruiting, nominating and supporting persons with mental health challenges to serve on teams and in leadership positions within the congregation.
• When calling clergy and other staff, we pledge to be open to hiring persons with mental health challenges.

We pledge to support people in our congregation who have mental health challenges and their families:
• We pledge to reach out to those living with brain disorders, mental health diagnoses, addictions, and trauma in the same way we reach out to those living with other physical illnesses.
• We pledge to offer companionship and compassion for individuals and families living with mental health challenges.

We pledge to engage with other organizations that work at the intersection of mental health and faith/spirituality/religion:
• We pledge to welcome and encourage outside groups who deal with mental health challenges to use our church facilities.
• We pledge to engage with other organizations to find opportunities to be in shared mission, ministry and advocacy together. This includes working with our church’s Health Team and Accessible to All Task Force and the UCC’s Mental Health Network and Disabilities Ministry.

This vote affirms that we join in the process of always becoming more welcoming, inclusive, supportive and engaged with all of God’s people.