Loving and serving: Safe Haven

Monday, 1 June, 2009

Safe Haven - meetingThis story illustrates the principles of Loving and serving in the Guide.

Safe Haven is a spiritual home for people who live with mental illness. Held monthly on a Tuesday evening in Waltham Abbey Church, in the Essex town of the same name, the hour-and-a-half long gathering attracts up to nine people across the adult age range.

Safe Haven is one of a number of activities supported by the Mind and Spirit County Steering Group.

The point of Safe Haven is that it sets out to break down distinctions between mental health and spirituality,

explains Waltham Abbey's curate, Di Crook.

It is a safe place for each person to explore their spiritual/existential journey in a framework which is Christian, but accepts people just where they are.

She suggests that around three quarters of those who attend regularly are those with no church or Christian background but who know that they are searching. Some people come each month, others when they can. Guidelines for the meetings are agreed together and everyone is welcome.

Other meeting places have been explored, but it was found that those who attend prefer the 'spiritual' feel of Waltham Abbey Church.

'The point of Safe Haven is that it sets out to break down distinctions between mental health and spirituality'

The session is facilitated by Di, a trained counsellor who, before ordination, worked with people with mental illness. Other group members have also helped to facilitate the meetings.

Meetings are simple. They begin with a read meditation, followed by a time of quiet. People indicate they are ready by placing a lit candle in the middle of the group. When everyone is ready, people can share their thoughts.

Writing about Safe Haven, one member commented:

I am sure most of us who came along as facilitators or members never expected that we would receive, ourselves, far more than we were able to give.

Boundaries and barriers have slipped away as we take up the opportunity for personal reflection in the presence of God, and then the privilege of sharing in sometimes very intimate and personal moments, as all seek to express their feelings and needs.

Not all present would recognise or even understand the movement of the Holy Spirit, but that presence is always there, encouraging, lifting up, comforting, healing and empowering.

This is a learning point from: