When Your Church Lets You Down (1)

This is not an article about the place of religion in the treatment of mental health, it is merely a collection of anecdotal tales that are rather surprising given that churches are renowned for being in the business of helping people through difficult times.

Of course, churches are run by fallible humans and we must expect problems from time to time. But it is a shame when a minister or senior church representative fails to offer even the most basic human care to a person suffering from an emotional problem. Let’s have a look at the case of Susan.

Susan was overwhelmed by life problems – she had a difficult, aging mother of whom she was the sole carer. She also had a chronically sick son. So she was torn between caring for the two generations that she was sandwiched between,. To add to her woes, she had no husband and she had been recently sexually assaulted and was waiting for a worker’s compensation case to go through – all enough to send even the sanest person temporarily way out of kilter.

Fortunately, Susan had a wonderful friend among her arsenal of support – a Roman Catholic nun. Susan was able to talk to this nun about her problems and she would be able to release her pain to this patient lady and then the latter would pray for her.

But one day, the nun went on holidays for two weeks. For Susan, this was an eternity. Concerned, the nun offered to ask around her colleagues for someone to pray with Susan during the time she was away. However, when the nun got back to Susan all she could relate was that no-one was prepared to pray with her for the time this nun was away. Susan was dumbfounded. She even said to her friend : “Isn’t praying what nuns do?”

Well, no, apparently it isn’t. Susan was distraught that her friend was leaving as her other friends were not religious and could not offer that same support to her. But she was even more upset because not one single nun in the entire diocese of the city in which she lived was prepared to stand in for a period of a fortnight and take this nun’s place.

One can only speculate that this could be just one of the many reasons why church numbers are dwindling when a person who wants to pray and needs spiritual guidance cannot obtain it. But this is not confined to the Roman Catholic Church. We’ll look at the experience of Lyn as she encounters a similar problem in a church of another domination in the next article.

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