“A light in the midst of darkness”
Derbyshire Times monthly column
Author: The Right Rev’d Libby Lane, Bishop of Derby
May 2020. Recently, I heard from a 94-year old woman living near me in the Derbyshire Dales who shared her delight in mastering a new skill and joining virtual Sunday worship at her local church through a computer. She described the service as “a light in the midst of darkness, something to focus on to keep me going through the week”.
The Bible teaches that every one of us is uniquely created by God, loved and precious, of infinite value and worth. During the coronavirus lockdown, churches across Derbyshire are seeking to reflect this in practice: local congregations are ringing round people offering connection, practical help and a friendly, listening ear.
They are organising coffee mornings, quizzes, book groups and virtual meetings and sending out messages of help, support, hope and inspiration through noticeboards, newsletters, websites and social media. Indeed, my contact with the newly computer-literate 94-year old came about because many churches are teaching technology skills to the elderly so they can continue to participate in our society.
But, despite the growing sense of community spirit and resilience, illness, insecurity, isolation and disruption to our daily lives brings stress and anxiety and inevitably impacts upon our mental health.
Since lockdown, Kooth’s and Qwell’s, the online counselling and wellbeing services for children and adults respectively, have reported major increases in referrals due to issues such as family arguments, sadness or depression, sleep problems, eating disorders and loneliness, and work worries.
Those with diagnosed and complex mental health conditions are at additional risk but this news is a timely reminder of the different ways we all struggle with our mental health.
Christians believe we are never truly alone, that God is with us and promises never to leave or forsake us no matter what we face. One way we discover this is through prayer, and a growing number of people are accessing online and telephone prayer and worship services such as ‘Daily Hope’, launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has spoken so movingly of his own struggles with mental health.
Current circumstances will impact upon our wellbeing for a long time to come and appropriate support will need to be put in place locally and nationally. Our churches are ready to help but we can all play our part: let’s be realistic about the pressures and demands we face, remembering to be gentle with ourselves and kind to others. And it’s good to talk: why not contact someone you think may be lonely or struggling today?
I pray we will discover, in the midst of this, a glimpse of the promise of Jesus: Peace be with you.