Shared Voices of Clergy Offer Help and Hope
At times, we all are fragile and vulnerable, needing tenderness and understanding. Chaplains, spiritual/pastoral care counselors, and clergy are often available to people in need around the clock—in communities and congregations and in specialized settings such as hospitals, the military, counseling centers correctional, long-term care facilities and mental health systems—offering comfort and hope to those who are hurting.
October 23–29, 2011 is Pastoral Care Week and the theme is “Voices Shared.” Pastoral Care Week is an interfaith celebration that seeks to promote, honor and support the work of pastoral care ministers, institutions, chaplains and volunteers in communities throughout Houston and internationally.
During this week, Mental Health America of Greater Houston (MHA) is joining this effort to recognize the significant difference being made in the physical, mental and spiritual health of all people by the clergy of all faiths. MHA will release a Mental Health Series for clergy and faith communities that will bring greater awareness of mental health and mental illness issues and resources available in the area.
According to MHA, clergy and faith communities play an important role in helping reduce the stigma and shame associated with mental illness by arming themselves, their congregations and their communities with knowledge about mental health issues. In some cases, they have also become advocates for those who need services but cannot manage to obtain services on their own.
“The pews in Houston and Harris County are filled with individuals and families living and struggling with mental health concerns—and the numbers are increasing daily. Many have encountered traumas, or live with financial pressures—job loss and home foreclosure. Still others have to deal with a serious illness or the disability of a loved one,” said Traci Patterson, director of communications at Mental Health America of Greater Houston.
But, because of many clergy, Patterson says, “some people with mental health problems are not as ill as they were. Some no longer live in the streets. At least one sings in a church choir. Others attend services more often. Life is better. They’re not alone. They have hope. And they are loved.”
Pastoral Care Week (www.pastoralcareweek.org), now in its 25th year, has grown in participation and proportion every year. Always held the last week in October, the celebration often brings those who work in this ministry together to share stories, learn from one another and address specific pastoral care issues. Past themes have focused on diversity, methods of pastoral healing and peace. End-of-life issues have also been explored and discussed in depth.