On Sunday the focus of our readings was the Good Shepherd, with Psalm 23 both read and sung and complementary readings from Revelation and John’s Gospel. The prayer of preparation suggested by dailyLectio.net had been:
God of comfort and compassion, through Jesus, your Son, you lead us to the water of life and the table of your bounty. May we who have received the tender love of our Good Shepherd be strengthened by your grace to care for your flock. Amen.
An important and often-overlooked way of caring for the flock was the subject of Deacon Lynda Wright’s talk about her work with the Mental Health Community Chaplaincy, and the importance of listening.
Nowadays, as fewer people have church or faith connections or friends who they trust to share with, it’s increasingly hard for them to know where to go when things are getting them down, or they’re struggling with loss or illness or the breakdown of a relationship, or life isn’t making sense for them. As Lynda continues in her blog:
… They go to the GP because they are hurting, but the GP often knows that the problem is not a physical one which they can treat, but an emotional one. So they refer to this Listening Service, where individuals are enabled to explore the kind of issues named above.
People do need to talk. It is not uncommon for an individual to say at the end of the session, ‘Thank you so much, that has been so helpful’, when the Listener feels they have done very little – just listened! Of course, they have created a welcoming, non-judgmental, safe space, where the individual felt safe to share their story, their struggles and anxieties and where they could explore the questions they were living with.
… Our Listeners are skilled volunteers … they don’t counsel – they listen and often this is all the individual needs. In training we say, ‘There is not a problem to be fixed, but an individual to accompany.’
We’re sharing this because this week is Mental Health Awareness Week, whose 2022 focus is on loneliness. Feelings of isolation are common among older folk, but can affect people of all ages, and having someone there to listen – really listen – can help them cope. And being available to listen is something that we can all offer …