The Beloved Community and My GA Committee – Part 1: Mental Health . . .

by Rev. Abby King-Kaiser, Dorothy Day Center for Faith and Justice, Xavier University; Presbytery of Cincinnati Commissioner to GA 225

But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.      – 1 Corinthians 12:24b-26

To God be the Glory for electronic voting and amendments that do not require carbon copies! I feel more Presbyterian now that I have proposed amendments and voted on amendments to amendments. I now know how to amend by striking and have had more thoughts on the purpose of our constitution than I ever thought I would. Needing the internet to catch up slowed us down, but I can’t imagine it required more patience that passing out carbon copies to all the appropriate people.

In a day and age that requires screens and typing as parliamentary tools, it was helpful to have some reasons to slow down. It felt so good to meet members of our church family from West Virginia to Hawaii, Montana to Mississippi. 1 Corinthians 12 came alive as we debated and prayed, wrestled and worshiped, and listened to difficult testimony with compassion. These are my reflections on this committee experience, far into the weeds of our work. If you are a GA junkie who loves that sort of thing, keep reading. If you are not, I will not be offended if you close the tab, click onto another email, or put your phone down.

“Discernment is necessary because it is not always clear what love calls for.” – Dean Brackley, SJ

In my work with students, this is a concept I use to teach about discernment, but it has never been more helpful to me personally than it was in our committee work. We were striving to be patient, humble, to bear with one another in love, and I hope in the end the room felt the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Peace comes from discerning God’s will in community and working to make that kingdom real. I think we did that, but it was not easy. As I returned from Louisville, in the short interim before the plenaries begin, I wanted to share my reflections on the work that we did in our committee for two reasons—first, so I can share how this work moved me from lament to hope, and second, so that you can get a preview of some of what may come before your presbytery in the months to come.

Part 1: Mental Health

It is no secret that at just about every level of our society there are mental health crises. We heard from the Presbyterian Mental Health Network, formed after the 223rd GA four years ago. There is hope emerging as churches fight stigma, include mental health professionals in their ministries, connect with each other, and provide real support and response to the ongoing crisis. Our committee voted to continue support for this work, in the forms of grants through the Presbyterian Mental Health Network, the creation of a new resource from the Presbyterian Mission Agency, and assessment of resources for plan members through the Board of Pensions. I hope the assembly will take the committee’s recommendation to ask every level to build capacity for mental-health first aid, suicide prevention, trauma-informed care, and companionship through mental health treatment.

Working with the Presbytery of Cincinnati, you will be hearing more about how our churches can be a factor in mental health and regional resources that can help, so stay tuned!

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