Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Signing off…

Posted: July 15, 2018 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

Well folks, this is my final (and 194th!) blogpost.

Today marks my accreditation as a Baptist minister, and the end of my time with Revive. After that I’ll have a month to rest and pack, before moving down to Leicester to become minister at Stoneygate Baptist Church.

I would dearly love to have something deeply profound to say, but my heart is so full of emotions and my head is so full of practicalities that I can’t promise much. I will says some of this at my sending later, but I wanted to put it down in writing becuase it will probably make more sense, and I like things to have proper endings.

These last few years with Revive have been amazing. I have loved being part of such a wonderful community, and I cannot thank you enough for the way you have embraced me and my family. I have learnt so many things and grown in so many ways, and I like to think that enough of Revive has rubbed off on me that I will take a bit of it with me wherever I go from here.

Of course any introspection will lead to some regrets. Most of all, I wish I’d spent more time just being with people, but I know my introversion and my insecurities and my inability to keep my house tidy have held me back. I am sorry for the ways in which I haven’t done as well by you as I could have done, but I thank you for your grace in accepting me flaws and all, and please know that I am more comfortable in my intorversion and my insecurities are fewer for having been among you and loved by you…although I can’t promise that my domestic skills are any better!

I am excited about all we are going to, but that does little to lessen the sadness of leaving, and so I will stop now before I start gently weeping into my laptop.

This isn’t goodbye forever, but it is goodbye for now.

With love and every blessing,

Leigh

Advertisements

More on Mental Health

Posted: July 9, 2018 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

Just to restate where we are at the moment, last year we briefly considered mental health as part of our series on inclusion. We never expected or intended to cover everything we needed to know in a single evening, but rather we hoped to start a conversation in order to make clear that we want to be a safe space in which people can acknowledge and talk about their own mental health. We are now coming back to that conversation, inviting in guest speakers with experience of working with people with mental health difficulties, in the hope that this may give us greater understanding and some more practical responses.

Last night we were joined by Martin, who has spent most of his life as a community mental health nurse, and now teaches others to do that work. He is a member of his local parish church, and so while his church setting may look a little different to revive, he has also been thinking about how churches can be safe and inclusive spaces for people with mental health difficulties. He was honest that about the fact that as he has gone on he has become less confident of simple answers, and came to us as a fellow enquirer and learner, excited about the potential for churches to be healing communities.

In his teaching practice, Martin is definite about the importance of listening to the lived experience of people with mental health problems, and he shared the story of a man he called Olly, who comes in to share his own story with students. Olly had a wild youth, and when he left or was thrown out of university, he went travelling and began to experiment with drugs. During this time he began to experience psychosis, including hearing voices. He somehow made his way back home, where his paranoia led to him becoming practically nocturnal, and completely disconnected from society. He was admitted to psychiatric hospitals on a number of occassions, but this only dampened his experiences without stopping them. And then one day he stumbled into a church, and that is the moment at which he believes his recovery began. There was no grand moment of conversion, but simply being among the congregation began to make a difference. It gave him routine, and a place where he felt safe and knew he would be missed.

We spent a bit of time reflecting on Olly’s story, and the ways in which church can do for others what it did for Olly. We talked about it being a place where people can be accepted as themselves, where they can feel a sense of belonging, where they can find an adoptive family and a home, where they can be met with intentional care, where their dignity and worth can be restored. We also talked about it being a place where people’s problems are accepted, where there is an acknowledgement that we are all broken and hurting in different ways, where that acknowledgement acts as a leveller. We talked too about the spiritual power of community, and the way in which Jesus stretches our borders to breaking point, so that the church welcomes in those who other wish to keep out.

Of course the church doesn’t always do that, and many have experienced it as a place of exclusion, where their mental health has become a source of guilt and shame, where they have been accepted as a project if they have been accepted at all. When the church falls so far short of what it is called to be it can be an incredibly damaging place, and we have to recognise that and be honest about it, facing hard truths about the times we have not loved people as well as we should, but we must also share Martin’s hope and excitement for its potential, and strive to be the kind of church we described.

Martin told us that research into what helps people recover from mental illness talks about the importance of nonjudgemental acceptance and unconditional positive regard, and he believes that we are uniquely placed to offer these things as Christians. In recognising that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), we acknowledge that we are all in need of them, and in declaring that “all are justified freely by his grace” (Romans 3:24), we bear witness to the truth that we all receive them from God.

Martin also shared some of his thoughts around the importance of story telling and meaning making, and the role of the church in that. People with lived experience of mental ill health talk about the importance of making sense of what has happened to them, and as a place that tells stories and looks for meaning in them, the church may be well placed to facilitate that process. I can bear witness to that, as it is when I have told my stories in church contexts that I have been able to find meaning in them, and from there have been able to find healing, whereas it is the stories I haven’t told in church that have carried the most pain.

One thing that came out of conversations was the significance of liturgy, as the words and prayers of the church give a pattern to hold onto and slot into, and we may say them until we oen them and they change the words we say about ourselves. Every church has a liturgy because it is simply the way the church worships, and there is significance in the simply rhythm of meeting, but at revive we don’t often use fixed words and prayers. The liturgies of more traditional churches are a rich resource, and perhaps we might think about how we might use these for ourselves and offer them to others.

Martin also talked about the importance of practical help, particularly of being a community that holds all things in common. Poor mental health can be isolating and limiting in all sorts of ways, and it can also come out of isolation and limitation, so there can be something incredibly restorative in being part of a community that broadens our horizons and our access to people and things.

At the end of the evening we looked at some real situations where churches were seeking to care for those with mental health difficulties, identifying some of the challenges and seeking to lay out some principles. What follows will not be exhaustive, and there will be an ongoing process of enquiring and learning, but added to our previous discussions, it hopefully gives us something to work from.

  • Pastoral care is the responsibility of the whole church. Evidence says that a network of relationships is important, and it can be overwhelming for one person to take sole responsibility for another, particularly in moments of crisis. That’s why having this conversation as part of our regular meeting is so important.
  • Often a joined up approach will be needed, and churches should know what avenues of professional and medical support are available, although such help may not be possible as services are stretched. In light of this, it may be good to get involved with campaigning for better funding.
  • Somebody asked about red flags, signs that we should seek immediate intervention, and Martin pointed to risk of harm to self or others and dramatic physical changes.
  • Even if churches do not have the knowledge or resources to deal with underlying issues, they can help make life easier and more pleasurable while that deeper work is done elsewhere. No one wants to be reduced to an illness, and simple care and friendship can be a great balm.
  • A culture of honesty and accountability across the whole church will make it easier for people to speak openly about their mental health issues.
  • There is a need to be aware of safeguarding policies, to protect both those who are suffering with mental ill health, and those who are seeking to support them. This includes not promising confidentiality, as it may be necessary to speak to someone else in order to get help.
  • For those who struggle with social anxiety, someone else being proactive in starting conversations and introducing people can be a help. Of course it can also be utterly terrifying, and if you’re not sure which it would be, then you can always ask. It is easy to make wrong assumptions and leave people out or force them into uncomfortable situations, all with the best of intentions. I know I have made that mistake and I am deeply sorry for it.
  • When it comes to prayer, ask the person in question how they would like to be prayed for and what they would like you to pray. Some may want laying on of hands, others may just want to know that someone somewhere is praying for them, some may want healing, others may want better management…it will depend so much on where people are at and what their past experience of prayer has been.

There is a wider point there about the fact that everybody is different, and principles can only be guidelines, not hard and fast rules. Care has to come out of relationship, and that means learning who the other is and how we can best love them. There are no shortcuts, but it takes time and energy and commitment. The conversations we have had so far have been a good start, but they are only a start, and there will be more learning and experience and reflection to come. As someone who was a history (and a present) of mental health issues, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being willing to start this, and I pray that revive will become more and more the safe and welcoming space it seeks to be.

The intention of these conversations has been to build a base of knowledge that we can put into practice, so to draw everything together, here are our previous posts on mental health and inclusivity:

Talking About Inclusivity

Thinking Again About Mental Health

‘How can we help you stay well?’

On Sabbath and Self Care

Posted: July 4, 2018 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

A couple of weeks ago I briefly mentioned some ideas about self care which Karen had shared with us, and I said I would come back to them in another post. I was reminded of the importance of this on Sunday, when Rob’s reference to Sabbath was met with some rolling of eyes and clearing of throats. We all know we’re meant to rest, but we also know that we’re not very good at doing it. I have written before about Sabbath as the first rhythm of our lives and the importance of Sabbath for our wellbeing, and we also touched on the blessing of Sabbath when we explored The Year of Living Biblically, but it’s a message that bears hearing again, so you might like to go back and look over those posts.

I have been reading a little more about Sabbath this year, and Abraham Joshua Heschel speaks of it as “a foretaste of paradise…a testimony to God’s presence”, and as a cathedral or sanctuary in time. These words remind us that Sabbath is far more than just self care, but there is an important element of that within it, and so we I think can talk about the two together, without reducing the one to the other. Heschel also says that “there is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord”, and that “the Sabbath is not for the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of [our] work”. Practising Sabbath will renew and sustain us, but we do not rest only so that we can work harder the following day, and I think the same goes for self care. Sabbath and self care are ends not just means, and I think it is good to have that in mind as we return to Karen’s ideas.

One of Karen’s first pieces of advice was to protect a day off, or in other words, to maintain a Sabbath. I think there is something quite profound about the idea of a collective Sabbath, where we all stop and rest together, but that’s just not always possible. If Sunday doesn’t work as your Sabbath, choose another day. If it can’t be the same day every week, look ahead and book it in where it fits. Remember it’s not selfish or wasteful to spend time doing nothing or doing something entirely for pleasure. It is both a necessity and a precious gift. But don’t neglect that it is a gift from God. Make time to rest in his presence and acknowledge him in all your Sabbath activities. I am sure that God desires to enjoy the day with you.

I found Karen’s practice of allowing herself half an hour to work on her day off really helpful. I have tended to swing between not being sufficiently disciplined to protect a rest day, and becoming so stubborn about not working that I lose the day to thinking about something that would have taken five minutes if I’d just got on and done it. Jesus valued the Sabbath, but he also knew that a legalistic attitude weighed it down and sapped it of its restorative power. The point of the Sabbath is to rest, and to recognise the holiness of that rest. If I rest better for sending a quick email of sticking a load of laundry in the machine, I think that’s okay.

I was also struck by what Karen said about loving ourselves with heart and soul and body and mind. If we are called to love God like that, and if we are called to love our neighbours as ourselves, and if love of God and love of neighbour are parallels, then it makes sense that we are called to love ourselves in the ways that we love God. For Karen that means taking care of heart and soul and body and mind, doing things that bring joy to our hearts and rest to our souls, things that treat our bodies well and stimulate our minds. I don’t want to stray back into legalism with anything resembling a tick chart, but I do want to build these things into the rhythm of my life. Listening to classical music, practising the examen, taking dance classes, reading for pleasure…life giving rhythms of self care.

Karen spoke too about doing more of what keeps us well and less of what keeps us unwell, and I think the words she chose are really important. We won’t always be able to completely avoid the things we find draining or frustrating, and we will rarely be able to do only those things that we find exciting or relaxing, but we will often be able to shift the balance. This probably won’t come as a surprise to those of you who have seen my house, but I really really hate housework. I like the idea of having a clean and tidy home, but I find the physical effort exhausting and there is little pleasure in the actual tasks. And yet I know that if I can do little and often, it won’t feel such a mountainous task and things won’t take so long, and then less of what drains and frustrates me will allow for more of what excites and relaxes me. Easier said than done, and other balances will be harder to shift, but it’s a start.

So, now you have read some of my reflections on Sabbath and self care, I encourage you to set aside time for your own reflections, asking yourself how you can better care for yourself, and how you can remember the Sabbath and keep it holy in your own life.

13108744533_dcd5b6e0fe_b

Spiritual Gifts: Part One

Posted: June 25, 2018 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

Many members of revive have roots and history in charismatic traditions, and so we are beginning to spend some time digging into charistmatic spirituality, with the intention of engaging with it more deeply and making more space for it in our worship. To start us off, Lidia spoke to us about spiritual gifts. She spent some time asking what God wanted her to say to us, and it’s really important that we hold and remember those words, so below are her notes.

As Christians, our main purpose in life – our raison d’être – is relationship with God; to know God and to know ourselves as He knows us.

If a relationship is to endure, it must have many facets as it goes through different seasons.

John 17:3 – “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God.

Other ways of describing this phenomenon of relationship:

a. Staying connected

b. Abiding

c. Walking in the light = allowing Him access to every part of us: every thought, desire, aspiration and behaviour, whether negative or positive. (The 12-step programme majors on this type of practice.)

d. Practising the Presence of God = implies that physicality and emotion are part of thisPhysically we may feel warmth, glowing, tingling, feel like we’re actually bathed in light, or in a light breeze, a sense of being held … etc. Emotionally we may feel peace, euphoria, reassurance, encouragement, inner strength, inspiration … etc

e. Fellowshipping with the Holy Sprit (but my experience is that you need to be very posh indeed to do this successfully) 

Ps 84:10 says “Better is one day in your house/courts, than a 1000 elsewhere.” Being in God’s house is great. But even being just on the periphery (i.e. in His courts) is still better than being anywhere else.

This relating, in the main, takes place in the mundane.

Thought: There is a difference between knowing about someone because you’ve heard things about them or read about them in a book, and actually knowing that person for yourself.

As we walk in relationship with God, we learn to recognise (or discern), His voice. We start to perceive people and circumstances from His perspective and according to His character and nature.

John 10: 27 – “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.”

John 10:4-5 –  “He (the shepherd) walks ahead of them and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

Hearing his voice becomes our daily bread. It brings life to us.

Matthew 4:4 – “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

We are extraordinary beings!

2 Cor 5:17 – “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation (or a new person). The old life is gone; Look! A new life has begun.”

In life, there are many narratives which compete for our identity. The family in which we grew up gave us an identity. The society we live in has its own narratives (and every culture believes that theirs is the superior one!) Our jobs and current family roles also require things of us.

For all these to take their right place, our identity needs to be first located in Christ. We need to perceive and understand how He sees us (which will blow our minds btw) and as we participate in His divine nature, we start to become what we were always meant to be, who we really are (which as I said before, is mind-blowing!) and, despite walking a narrow path, we are actually surprisingly free.

When 1, 2 and 3 [relationship, discernment and identity] become habitual, THINGS HAPPEN. It’s inevitable.

The points above have been written as pertaining to the individual. But they can equally be applied in the context of the body/group.

A group has characteristics and an identity of its own. For this reason we cannot have a healthy body unless everyone is functioning in it.

So what is a spiritual gift?

A spiritual gift is a prompt or a sudden knowledge which, when acted upon, is accompanied by a release of supernatural power.

It is often small. (Like a grain of mustard seed.)

The person ‘stepping out’ always feels weak (never powerful in themselves), and even silly. The gift itself can seem like it’s not likely to be significant or make any difference. And we never know the impact it’s going to have in advance. Sometimes we even see the impact over a few years.

What’s it for? 

It is primarily to minister God to someone.

To help them in their relationship with God (i.e. to offer insights and unblock unhelpful thoughts … etc.)

To help them discern His voice.

To call out, validate and strengthen the new creation i.e. who they are, what they are good at

It is only secondarily, to receive blessing.

Mat 6:33 – “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [Food, clothes] will be given to you as well.

When we seek Him and His kingdom, we get blessed. This is also inevitable. But our primary focus should not be the blessing but on seeking Him.

Do it.

Simon Hall: “If you do something 1000x, you’ll become good at it.

Be honest. Test yourself. Evaluate what you bring and what others have brought. Even write stuff down so that you can see what happens in the long term.

Spiritual gifts are not rational. You can experience an intense pushback after you’ve moved in one. But ultimately they are rational because if you see them working time and time again and having a positive effect, then ultimately, there’s nothing irrational about that.

Revive is a great place for exercising spiritual gifts. 

Why? We are all tacitly signed up to the Hippocratic Oath and have agreed to, ‘First do no harm’.

We are gentle and respectful.

We are autonomous.

Please therefore, would Revive folk be kind enough to offer feedback when someone has said or done something that resonates with you. That in itself will help us to move in the gifts.

When spiritual gifts are negative

People (that’s all people) do not carry power (that’s any power) very well, be that political power or spiritual power … etc.

So when we move in spiritual gifts, our negative foibles can start to leak out as well. Examples of this can be judgementalism (folk start to feel superior), control (folk start trying to get things their own way, even think they should be in leadership), feel that they’ve ‘arrived’ and now know everything, lust for more power … in fact a whole host of very human tendencies.

What is the remedy for this?

Whenever you move in a spiritual gift you need to have put on the heart of a servant: You’re washing someone’s feet.

Remember: The person is God’s. The power is God’s. The work is God’s. You have no rights to control or dictate. All you are doing is joining Him in His work.

Spiritual gifts can be particularly astonishing in a group where each person has just a snippet of something. And as we share our snippets, a picture emerges (like putting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together) which ends up a ministry of God to both the group and a whole and to each individual.

My most powerful times moving in gifts have nearly always been when I’ve had no agenda at all. When God has come to me (whilst in everyday relationship.) When I’ve asked God, ‘What do you want of me?’ and He’s responded by leading me somewhere or to someone.

Last night Simon shared a little more about spiritual gifts, so watch out for part two coming soon…

Responding to hate crime

Posted: June 7, 2018 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

On Tuesday night, the Jamia Masjid Abu Huraira Mosque and the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Gurdwara, both in Beeston in Leeds, were subject to arson attacks within minutes of one another. This followed a march by right wing supporters of EDL founder Tommy Robinson through Leeds city centre last Friday.

In the light of these events, we have sent the following message to the mosque and the gudwara. We also hope to have a presence at the vigil in Beeston Cross Flatts Park on Sunday. It is so hard to know what to do in such circumstances, but prayer and presence seem a good place to start.

 

To all who worship at the Jamia Masjid Abu Huraira Mosque and the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Gurdwara,

It was with deep sadness that we read the news of the attacks on your places of worship on Tuesday. The kind of hate and ignorance shown by these actions is against everything we believe, and against everything we pray for our city.

Words will not easily dismiss the fear and confusion you must feel in the wake of these events, but it does nothing to stay silent and we want you to hear messages of love and friendship that we hope will speak louder and truer.

Please know that we are praying for your peace and protection and for the softening of the hearts of those who seek to cause harm and unrest, and would like to be involved in any events or activities where we can stand with you in solidarity.

With love and blessing from members of Revive Baptist Church, North Leeds

A Heavenly Picnic

Posted: June 6, 2018 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

Last Sunday, revive decamped to Meanwood Park for a picnic and games, including a rather impressive human pyramid. We have talked before about the ways in which our shared meals are a form of communion, but before we ate together, Ed encouraged us that our times of play are also a reminder of God’s promise and a foretaste of all that is to come. It struck me as a really important word for us, and so I wanted to give a little more thought to it here.

I believe the verse Ed referred to was Zechariah 8:5, when God speaks through the prophet Zechariah of the restoration of Jerusalem, saying that “the city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there”. It’s a wonderful image, and just to emphasise the joy of it all, the basic meaning of the Hebrew word translated here as ‘playing’ is ‘laughter’. It sounds like the best summer holiday of my childhood.

And the picture just gets better. The verse before says that “old men and old women will again sit along the streets of Jerusalem, each with a staff in hand because of great age”. This image of streets filled with old people at rest and children at play gives the impression of a city in which everyone shares the same space, in which even the most vulnerable feel safe and happy, and in which efficiency is not the order of the day. It is an image which fills me with a deep yearning to live in that kind of city.

For the people Zechariah was speaking to, this was a promise of the restoration of Jerusalem, but as we inevitably read it in the light of the New Jerusalem imagined as part of the New Heaven and New Earth described in Revelation, we are more likely to see it as a promise of what the kingdom of heaven will be like when it comes in all its fullness. It’s amazing to think that this is what we have to look forward to, but that does not mean that my yearning must go wholly unsatisifed until I reach eternity.

Zechariah continues to speak the word of God when he tells the people “speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely…love truth and peace.” These commands are tied up with this vision because these actions start to build this city. We create a little piece of heaven when we treat one another with respect and love, and we experience a foretaste of eternity when we eat and play and sit together.

playful-kids.jpg

‘How can we help you stay well?’

Posted: May 30, 2018 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

Last Sunday we were joined by Karen and Jonathan, who are members of a missional community in East Leeds. Over twenty years they have gained a breadth and depth of experience of walking with and supporting folk with mental health issues, and so we invited them to come and share some of their stories and their wisdom, as we continue to think about what it means to be a community of inclusion and care. I’ve tried to capture some of that here, although what Karen and Jonathan shared will have inevitably become mixed in with some of my own thoughts, so please take this as my response rather than their word.

 

It’s okay not to be okay     It’s really important to create an environment in which there is no shame or fear attached to talking about mental health. Saying that it’s okay not to be okay doesn’t mean being resigned or dismissive, but rather being nonjudgemental and accepting. 

If something doesn’t sound right, don’t let it go     Sometimes people need a little encouragement to share what is going on in their lives or in their heads, and it’s not being nosy to dig a little deeper if you have heard something that concerns you. And of course if you hear something that suggests somebody is in danger of or has been subject to abuse, there are safeguarding processes that need to be followed.

Deal with what is, pray for what could be     We need to be both pragmatic and hopeful, acknowledging the truth of how things are but also holding onto the hope that they may be better. More on that below…

Ask ‘how can we help you to stay well?’     There are often really practical things we can do to help deal with what is, and asking this question is a really good place to start working out what those things are and putting plans into place. It is also important to remember that people really value simply being included (that’s why God put the widows and orphans in families) and need to see what they have to offer the community.

It doesn’t need to be fixed for God to be at work     It is right and good to pray for healing, but we must remember that healing can take time and doesn’t always look the way we want it to. God can be in coping as well as in cure, and sometimes the answer to a mental health issue might be management not a miracle

The Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book is a valuable resource     It may have been written for people struggling with alcohol addiction, but the Twelve Steps programme contains a lot of wisdom for everyone. That’s why other groups such as Emotions Anonymous have developed off the back of it, and I seem to recall meeting with another community where everyone uses the programme.

The Mental Health Access Pack is also good     I referred to this in my last post about mental health, and Karen and Jonathan gave it their thumbs up too. It has been co produced by a number of different Christian organisations and has information about common conditions and practical advice on how to support people living with them.

Recognise that this is going to hurt sometimes     If we are going to live in the world with hearts engaged we cannot avoid getting hurt, and that is particularly true when it means living in relationship with others who are experiencing deep hurt. That’s why…

Self-care is really important     Karen’s practical advice was to be honest about how you’re feeling, protect a day off and don’t feel guilty about it, love yourself with (and take care of) heart and soul and body and mind, recognise what is good for you and what is bad for you and what can lean one way or the other, do more of what keeps you well and less of what keeps you unwell.

 

I will come back to Karen’s ideas about self-care in a future blog, but I feel like there’s already enough to process, so I will leave things here for now. We have another guest speaker coming in July, to talk more about specific mental health conditions and how we might support those living with them, so watch out for more then. When one in four people will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lives, this is a really important conversation to be having, so let’s keep talking and thinking and praying. And let’s continue to look after one another and ourselves.