Being Alongside the Anxious: conference report

Members gathered online and in-person for a special day conference on Saturday 15 January 2022, exploring the relationship between anxiety, depression and spirituality.

Members gathered at the Charterhouse, London, and online

Contributors covered topics ranging from the place of faith in the treatment of those with mental health difficulties, to what the Bible tells us about Jesus’ approach to healing. Group discussion and reflection followed each talk.

The event was hosted in the beautiful, peaceful sorroundings of the Charterhouse in central London. As well as chance to consider our theme of helping those experiencing anxiety, the event gave members an opportunity to meet informally – for the first time in many months.

You can listen back to the addresses given by our three guest speakers below.

Philip Bacon, Brother of the Charterhouse & former psychotherapist on different approaches to the “delicate and difficult” task of exploring spiritual wellbeing in a clinical setting, and his experiences of encouraging patients to overcome a natural anxiety to discuss questions of faith.

John Cullen, homelessness outreach worker & chaplain of Nazareth House, Hammersmith on the power of listening attentively to those suffering from anxiety, and the imperative for all of religious faith to help those experiencing mental health difficulties see the potential of the future.

Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford on the lessons to be drawn from some of the Gospel stories about Jesus’ healing miracles: His unconditional standing with the unloved and oppressed.

Martyn Percy (centre) delivers his address at the conference, watched by John Cullen (left) and Jamie Summers (right)

The Being Alongside committee are very grateful to our guest speakers, and the brothers and staff of the Charterhouse for their kind hospitality.

The committee hope to arrange similar conferences in future, and welcome ideas on topics that could be covered or speakers to invite.

Philip Bacon (standing) addresses the conference, held in the Charterhouse’s Learning Centre

Being Alongside conference 2022

We would like to invite members and supporters to a conference we are holding with the theme of “Being Alongside the Anxious”.

It will take place in the learning centre at The Charterhouse in the City of London, five minutes’ walk from Farringdon underground station.

Speakers will include Philip Bacon, an expert on the effects of mental health on families, and Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church College, Oxford.

To book your free place, please email ajpsummers@gmail.com

Winter 2021/22 magazine

No less a star than Britney Spears graces the cover of our Winter 2021/22 magazine. Download it and turn to page 11 to find out why!

We also feature important news about our plans to modernise our charity structure; appreciations of three wonderful people from the Being Alongside family who have recently stepped down from their roles; a plea for openness and transparency about suicidal ideation; reflections on A Garden in Darkness (paintings by Michael Cook and poems by Rosalind O’Media.

We are also honoured to have been permitted to re-publish the brave testimonies of two women who experienced abuse at L’Arche, for which we thank the victim support organisation AVREF.

Last but not least, the back cover is an invitation for all friends and supporters of Being Alongside to come along to our conference on 15th January 2022.

History of APCMH/Being Alongside

Calling all historians…… John Vallatt has a long association with the charity and has documented much of its history in 2016. We hope you find it an interesting read.

SHORT HISTORY OF THE ASSOCIATION FOR PASTORAL CARE IN MENTAL HEALTH

(NOW KNOWN AS “BEING ALONGSIDE”)

PART 1.  From Bright Beginnings through Testing Times to the Second Spring (1986 to 1993)

BRIGHT BEGINNINGS

Background.

 Jane and Austin Lindon’s son, who had schizophrenia, had been a psychiatric in-patient for 2 years when Jane realised that he had not received a single visit from a priest during that time.  That was not surprising in the mid-1980s as it was then felt by many, if not most, mental health professionals that spiritual or religious thoughts were delusional or even a symptom of mental illness and that those matters were best avoided.   On the other hand, parish priests and other faith leaders had little experience of people with severe mental health issues and took their lead from the psychiatrists.  It was not unusual for the spiritual well-being of seriously ill patients to be ignored.  Jane, a Catholic, was appalled.  Determined to try to do something about it, she sent a letter to a number of people whom she and her husband, Austin, thought might be interested in helping.  She invited them to a meeting at St Giles Church Hall on 2nd October 1986 at which a steering committee was formed.

Continue reading “History of APCMH/Being Alongside”

Thank you Pam!

A tribute to Pam Freeman, by Jamie Summers

At the April AGM, after some 35 years of active involvement in our little charity, Pam felt it was time to step down as Co-ordinator and Trustee. Already she is much missed.

I have only known Pam for 26 years, starting my connection at the September 1995 AGM when we were the Association for the Pastoral Care of the Mentally Ill. There was an inspiring seminar that November when the triumvirate of Pam, Jeremy Boutwood and John Vallat spoke of their lives at the Guild of Health offices in Queen Anne Street. Indeed, Pam was also a Trustee of the Guild of Health and we later shared their offices with them. It was then that I became entwined with the aims and ethos of APCMI. At the Hammersmith & Fulham MIND’s Consumer Forum Sunday gathering, Jeremy and Pam came to speak to us on 25th February 1996 – I was the development worker for this ‘user group’ and vividly recall Pam telling us how she found God in a field of wild flowers.

Continue reading “Thank you Pam!”

Introducing myself

I am delighted to introduce myself as the new part-time Administrator for Being Alongside.  I have worked as an administrator and office manager for many years, my last role being with another small charity working with families of children with a terminal neuro-degenerative condition.  I have spent the last three years training for ordination and was ordained into the Church of England as a deacon in early July.  I will combine my work for Being Alongside with my part-time curacy in two villages in Hampshire.  I have three children, two of whom have chronic health conditions which has given me a passion for ensuring mental health is as much a subject for discussion as physical health; that it is “okay not to be okay”; and that kindness, love and compassion towards one another is more important than anything.  I am delighted to be able to follow my vocation in the Church at the same time as using my charity management skills to promote the importance of spiritual care for all those living with mental health challenges.  I look forward to working with you and for you.

Lucy Roose

Our struggle with loneliness

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.

Continue reading “Our struggle with loneliness”