Web first!

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.

To kick off this new Web-first strategy, today we are publishing Jamie Summers’ review of Freed From Shame by Dawn Holmes.

Book review: Freed from Shame by Dawn Holmes

Freed From Shame book coverIn 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.

It comprises three sections … Part I ‘Understanding mental health’ deals with all the diagnoses people are given. Part II ‘Being understood’ contains the real-life stories of nearly 20 sufferers and Part III ‘Equipping the church’ gives practical advice to churches on how to help. To be honest I found Part І a little dry but that’s just my personal perspective and probably the information there will educate the layman – when in Part II we learn that Michelle was diagnosed with ‘Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder’ which used to be called ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’ I wonder if these labels really help anyone – are we not just people?

The testimonies in Part II derive from Dawn’s survey questions. Each one moved me. I’ll share a few with you now – Michelle says, “… I just want you to walk with me, like Jesus does in the poem ‘Footprints in the Sand’.” Peter says the most important advice is to “listen properly – look behind the mask that a person puts on to protect themselves.” Heather pleads, “… don’t judge me … be practical but patient but above all loving.” Deborah, whose daughter has had traumatic teenage years says, “I believe it’s time churches did more to support people struggling with mental illness. Don’t let more people suffer alone, get hurt or misunderstood – it’s time for a change.” Amen to that.

Dawn’s practical suggestions in Part III include setting up drop-ins, quiet zones, prayer spaces and befriending sufferers on to one. I particularly liked one of her bullet-point charts which mirrored the ethos of our little charity, but were all taken from comments in her survey.

  • Be real.
  • Don’t look down on people, it could be you one day.
  • Listen, listen and listen some more.
  • Don’t push for more information than the person wants to give.
  • Keep information confidential.
  • Be respectful.
  • Love them like Jesus does.
  • Walk into services with the person and sit with them.
  • Show support rather than a “fix-it” approach.
  • Listen, pray and be a friend.
  • Don’t give up on the person.
  • Tell people it is OK not to be OK.
  • Be more accepting and less shocked.
  • Stop any gossip or negative comments about the person.

All in all an excellent publication, written with empathy and love. As churches, we need to step up to the plate and end the stigma and shame says Dawn. May God reveal His heart to you as you read this book and bring His hope, grace and peace to all.

Jamie Summers

Join us online at our AGM next Saturday 25th July

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.

Annual General Meeting 25th July 2020

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

Annual General Meeting postponed

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.

Thank you for your understanding.

Richard Allen – Chair of Trustees

20 May 2020

Spring 2020 magazine

We’ve been quiet for a long time, while the trustees ponder the future of the organisation. Now we are reaching out again to our members and supporters with a new proposed strategy for Being Alongside / APCMH.

Read all about it in our Spring 2020 issue of Being Alongside, together with reports from our local groups, and a thoughtful piece from a healthcare chaplain reflecting on her own experience of depression.

Join us at Southwark’s day conference on mental health awareness on 23/2/19

Join us on Saturday 23rd February 2019 to hear from experts in the field of mental health, as well as from local churches that run mental health and wellbeing projects.

There will be a market place of resources and signposting for support to set up projects in your own church.

This event is focused on the Croydon episcopal area, but if you’re based elsewhere you are still very welcome to attend!

This event is being organised by the Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation department of the Diocese of Southwark, with the help of Archdeacon Moira Astin and Canon Andrew Wilson.

It’s being supported by MIND, The Children’s Society, and ourselves.

Entry is free, and food will be provided.

To book please email by 19th February: Marlene.Collins@Southwark.Anglican.Org

A look back at a couple of videos from Being Alongside

Here are two videos commissioned by Being Alongside quite a few years ago now. Our thanks to Steve Press for transferring them from VHS.

With A Little Help From My Friends

People living with mental health issues describe how its stigma can make the difficulties so much harder… With Professor Geoff Shepherd and Bishop Stephen Sykes.

Mental Illness: An Inside Story

TV Presenter Michael Nicholson anchors a collection of interviews with mental health sufferers.


John Foskett

Canon John Foskett, a pioneer in clinical pastoral education and chaplain at the Maudsley Hospital for many years, has died at the age of 78.

John was a long-time supporter of Being Alongside/APCMH, and wrote two books: Meaning in Madness (1984), about mental health, religion and chaplaincy, and Helping the Helpers (1988), with David Lyall, about supervision for pastoral counsellors.

An obituary written by John’s son Tim has been published by The Guardian in its Other Lives section.

A memorial service will be held at Southwark Cathedral at 2pm on 14th November 2017. All who knew John and valued his work are warmly encouraged to attend.

An appreciation will appear in the next issue of our magazine.


Pam Freeman adds her own tribute to John Foskett:

I wish to pay tribute to Rev John Foskett who was the chaplain at the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham from 1976 to 1994. He was also an honorary Canon at Southwark Cathedral from 1988 to 1994. He was a really good friend to Being Alongside. He spoke many times on our behalf at meetings held over the years.

I met him in the eighties when I went on a course for pastoral counselling at the Arts Centre in Croydon. We learnt a great deal and both John and Mary were very kind and understanding concerning the problems that people often experienced. They enabled those who took part in the course to gain in Confidence when working in voluntary organisations and the church and Being Alongside.

He was always available for consultation and I can remember visiting him at the hospital on more than one occasion. He also worked at the well known Maudsley Hospital in Denmark Hill and was highly thought of by staff and patients alike.

He wrote a book sharing his experiences of those who suffered mental illness which was a great help to many.

I wish to say that we were very fortunate in APCMH to have the support and help which John gave over the years.

May he rest in peace.

Spring magazine is out

The main article in the Spring 2017 issue of Being Alongside is a detailed portrait of our Croydon offshoot, which is still there providing stability and spiritual sustenance 30 years after it was established in the heady early days of the Association for the Pastoral Care of the Mentally Ill, as we were originally known. Operating a completely open-door policy, Croydon APCMH offers an impressively wide range of services and activities at three locations around the borough, thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers and staff. We hear about what it takes to keep it all going from project co-ordinator Millie Reid and vice chair Revd Canon Andrew Wilson, who has been there from the start.

Also featured in the Spring issue are Sean Kennedy’s reflections on living with a dual diagnosis of addiction and mental health issues; and further excerpts from the retreat diary of our chairman Jamie Summers, in which we find him challenged by Jean Vanier’s ability to forgive.

And when you’ve finished reading this issue, you can have a virtual leaf through several years’ worth of back issues on our magazine page. More to come when we get around to scanning them!