It has been almost one year since The Church of the Redeemer initiated The Center for WellBeing as a part of its’ mission to provide resources and education for both the congregation and the Baltimore community in areas for spiritual, emotional and physical health. David’s vision was to create and expand an innovative program that would build upon the momentum of the Mental Health First Aid Training that had been offered for the last 3 years. He and I were in one accord that we wanted to be very open to areas that generated energy and curiosity from the congregation as well as meet with community leaders to hear of their needs and how The Church of the Redeemer through The Center might respond. In hindsight, that approach has been such a key to our success. We did not limit our thinking or our goals. There is a wonderful quote from an old Spanish Poet: “Walker there is no road, the road is made by walking”. That perspective has mirrored the events of the last year!
So….that ‘road’ has led The Center to the following ‘destinations’:
- Maintaining a resource table in the narthex for articles of interest to our topics.
- Meeting with several well-known members of the Johns Hopkins Department of Psychiatry to form relationships that would give us access to their expertise to collaborate on a variety of programs in the future.
- Meeting with several key people at The Ecumenical Institute at St. Mary’s Seminary to explore future collaborations.
- Partner with Rabbi Nina Cardin to apply for and receive funding for a teaching program to Jewish ‘adult learners’ focused on pastoral issues. The grant came from the Johns Hopkins Foundation of Spirituality and Medicine.
- Outreach to several congregations who wanted training for their pastoral care teams.
- Prior to the pandemic, The Center hosted Mental Health First Aid Training for 4 classes that included both members of the congregation and staff from a number of local nonprofits.
- Offered group spiritual formation for 6 weeks each to 3 separate groups.
- Individual spiritual direction is being offered to 12 people, half of whom are Redeemer members and the others are in the discernment process for ordained ministry in the diocese.
- Cristina has been offering breathing workshops through The Center.
- Hosted a lay led workshop on death and dying.
- I have been offering ongoing pastoral support and mental health education via Zoom to Chaplain interns and residents at both Bayview and Johns Hopkins Hospitals.
- I am part of a planning team at Bayview to host a Substance Abuse Awareness Week this fall.
- Provided a speaker for Adult Ed on trauma and another one on advance directives/Five Wishes.
- Initiated a Monday edition of e-Redeemer to provide emotional support during the lockdown.
- Initiated a Monday afternoon gathering via Zoom for the parish as a way to remain in touch.
On a personal level, what has been thrilling is the freedom to follow where the current interest is for The Center. While the pandemic ‘interrupted’ some plans in the near term, in a way, it also played right into the real need for The Center. You, the congregation, were already so comfortable speaking about issues of mental health and wellness that we could continue the conversation with vigor and truth telling. I am aware of other churches who have been timid speaking about depression, suicide, anxiety, etc.….topics that are so important in the chaos of today’s world.
Another favorite expression is: “The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” As we look forward to the 2nd year of The Center, I think that is a good foreshadowing for the future. We will continue to be open to being a resource for the congregation and the community. I welcome your thoughts and reflections as the journey towards our wellbeing continues!
The Rev. Caroline R. Stewart
The Center for WellBeing