In response to an increasing number of people arriving at Southwark Cathedral complaining of loneliness, the cathedral’s day chaplains asked Andrew Wilson to lead them in a group discussion on the problem. Here he shares his contribution to the meeting.
I based my contribution to the discussion around two books I had been reading in lockdown. By way of introduction I suggested that the experience of loneliness was universal, whether it be in the playground perhaps, or the workplace, or sadly even within the circle of family and friends. One commentator writes “ The experience of loneliness is as universal as hunger or thirst. Because It affects us more intimately we are less inclined to speak of it. But who has not known its gnawing ache?” Jesus himself shared in that anguish, as Gethsemane and Calvary lay bare. “Alone, and in silent tears,” he endured betrayal and stigma.
The two books I had read both explored the anatomy of loneliness. The one a novel long-listed for the Booker prize, Real Life by Brandon Taylor, a black, gay American writer, and the other The Shattering of Loneliness, by Dom Erik Varden, formerly the abbot of the Cistercian abbey of Saint Bernard in Leicestershire, and now returned to his native land, to become Bishop of Central Norway.
This is a well written coherent account of what it must be like to have been born with a silver spoon, suffered the slings and things of outrageous fortune, fallen heavily, recognised one’s own plight and, with belief, compiled the many memories to chronicle a ‘you couldn’t make it up’ succession of extraordinary events. The fact that it is done with clarity and honesty makes it compelling reading.
The memoir starts off with the horrific ordeal of slipping through the mental health net, even as a voluntary patient, and reads at this stage rather like a verbatim account outlining the events after they had happened. The logical, well argued in hindsight, rant against widespread chemical coshing by the seemingly non-sensical overstretched unconcerned authorities and the Catch-22 patients can find themselves so easily sucked into make for disturbing reading.
Editor’s note: We are so grateful to Aisling (not her real name) for providing us with the following unvarnished account of her experience of a mental health crisis.
“Are you sure about this?” he said, as I slid the white gold band adorned with a diamond from my ring finger, and passed it back to him across the café table.
“Yes, I’m sure.” Little did I know that in that moment, Pandora’s box had been well and truly ripped open, and goddamn it, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get it shut again.
It was an otherwise innocuous June day in an upmarket, pedestrian borough of South-West London, famed for its yummy mummies, posh smoothies, and chain restaurants.
However, despite the suburban setting, this small action was about to set the wheels in motion for what can only be described as complete and utter hell on earth. Charles Dickens’ Hard Times had nothing on the next few months of my life.
I remember I was dressed in my workout gear: I’d just left a class at my new gym, and had come to see him for this last, final, decisive action over a coffee.
Passing back the engagement ring in itself was such an easy thing to do. It wasn’t so very hard to call curtains on a life that had barely just begun. What I hadn’t bargained for was everything that came next.
We are seeking an Administrator on a self-employed basis at £4,500 per annum.
The successful candidate will be computer literate, able to work from home, familiar with the requirements of the charity sector, adept at taking minutes but most importantly empathetic with the needs of the mentally afflicted.
The post-holder is the first point of contact for those wishing to engage with us and currently the only remunerated role in the national organisation.
For more information please see the post resumé, job description and person specification (PDFs below).
Or please telephone Richard on 07791 516575 or Jamie on 07730 464168.
A brief personal resumé and summary of your suitability (one page of A4) should reach email@example.com by the end of February 2021.
Just 27 years into the World Wide Web’s existence, we have decided to go with the flow and publish to the Web first.
That means that as soon as we have something to publish, it will appear first on our website, in the news or articles section. Then when we have built up enough material to fill 32 pages or so, we will go ahead and produce a new issue of Being Alongside magazine in all its glossy goodness.
That way we have the best of both worlds: the immediacy of digital publishing alongside the traditional and still valuable medium of ink on paper.
In the April issue of ‘Christianity’ there was a book review of ‘Freed from Shame’ which gave Dawn Holmes’ work the same 4 stars as Justin Welby’s latest. Its subject matter was of particular interest to us at Being Alongside / APCMH subtitled as it was: ‘Addressing the stigma of mental illness in the church’. So I found a copy through a large online bookshop although one can also order it directly through the book’s own micro-site or read it as en e-book.
It arrived speedily in a blue paper bag with additional promotional material, a nice touch possibly made easier by the self-published nature of the book. Some of you will know that BA / APCMH has been working on preparing a leaflet to encourage churches and their congregations to do more for the mentally afflicted. Well, this book echoes the ideas expressed in our drafts and expands them. Dawn, with help from Karen Todd of Simplicate, has produced a book that is easy to read, only 100 pages long all laid out creatively and clearly. It is aimed at anyone interested in mental health issues in the Church be they leaders, people with problems, their friends and relatives.
We confirm that the 2020 Annual General Meeting of the Association for Pastoral Care in Mental Health (Being Alongside) will take place online using the Zoom videoconferencing platform. Anyone with a reasonably up to date computer or mobile device will be able to participate.
As previously advertised, the meeting will take place on Saturday 25 July, beginning at 14:00 British Summer Time.
All members and supporters are warmly invited to join us. Please contact us advance for details of how to take part.
The Trustees give notice that the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Association for Pastoral Care in Mental Health will take place on Saturday 25 July, beginning at 14.00.
It is anticipated that, given the current restrictions around holding meetings in person due to Covid-19, the AGM will be conducted in a `virtual’ manner using Zoom. All members, and those registering an interest to attend this `virtual’ AGM, will be sent a link for access in time to join at the start of the meeting.
If circumstances change, such that it is possible to hold the meeting in person, the AGM will take place at All Saints Church, 100 Prince of Wales Drive, Battersea, London SW11 4BD, starting at 14.00. Given past attendance, the Trustees anticipate that the premises are large enough to accommodate all members whilst ensuring any reasonably anticipated social distancing rules in place at the time.
To ensure as much clarity as possible, a decision whether to hold the meeting virtually or in person will be taken such that those wishing to attend will be given seven days’ notice.
Richard Allen – Chair of Trustees
on behalf of the Trustees
Notice has been given that the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Association for Pastoral Care in Mental Health was scheduled to take place on Saturday 30th May 2020, at All Saints Church Battersea, starting at 13.00.
The charity is committed to the safety of those who participate in its affairs during the pandemic. Because of the ongoing risk issues and restrictions on meetings in person due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the AGM has had to be postponed.
Under paragraph 16 of the charity’s Articles of Association: “not more than 15 months shall elapse between the date of one annual general meeting of the Association and that of the next:”
The last AGM was held on 28 April 2019. In order to comply with its Articles of Association, the charity should therefore hold its next AGM on or before 28 July 2020. If this proves not to be possible because of continuing restrictions due to the coronavirus, the Trustees will follow the advice of the Charity Commission.
The national committee are holding a “virtual” meeting this coming Saturday (23rd May 2020) to discuss the situation, so that the Trustees can decide the most appropriate way forward. We will communicate this to members and to the wider public via the website as soon as practicably possible thereafter.