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Scott’s Column: WISE

Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
March 30 2017

In the summer of 2015 we deeply grieved the death of Felix Sihakom.  His husband Rick asked us to use the opportunity to share about Felix’s schizo-affective disorder and to talk about suicide prevention.

That was a challenging week for me as your pastor. In the midst of my grief, I wrote sermons for the funeral and the Sunday following. I spent much time that week reviewing information on how churches should respond. I was grateful for the training I had previously received. I also took the unusual step of sending drafts of those sermons to mental health professionals in the congregation.

We were exploring the Psalms at the time, so I set aside the praise psalm planned for that Sunday, and instead chose one of the most difficult passages in scripture, Psalm 88.  The final verse, in some translations, reads, “darkness is my only companion.”  One reason I love the Psalms and recommend them to people as part of my pastoral care, is that the whole range of human emotion is expressed somewhere, including this profound lament.

You can watch or read that sermon here.  The sermon is also now a resource shared by the denomination’s mental health network.

At General Synod in 2015, the United Church of Christ passed a resolution calling upon churches to become WISE for Mental Health (Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, and Engaged).  Like being open and affirming or accessible to all, this is a new designation for churches.  We immediately responded by drafting and adopting our own WISE Covenant. We were the second church in the denomination to enter into the covenant.

As a result, we were asked to host a regional conference sponsored by the UCC Mental Health Network. That conference will be held this Friday, March 31, after almost 18 months of planning. The Mental Health Network received a grant to pay for filming the conference so that the presentations and materials can be used by congregation’s throughout the denomination as curriculum to aide the process of becoming WISE for Mental Health.

Last week we received word that our congregation will receive the Bob and Joyce Dell Award for Mental Health Education at this year’s General Synod.

We dedicate this work to Felix, to his big heart, bright smile, and generous soul.