St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown is hoping to raise awareness for mental health and increase the community’s understanding of the problem of addiction.
The church is partnering with the Mental Health Association to host events this weekend in remembrance of the 53 drug overdose victims from the past year.
This year marks the church’s third annual Recovery Sunday, although the church had held various services over the years highlighting mental health and recovery prior to establishing an annual tradition.
“Addiction and recovery isn’t just someone else’s problem; it’s our problem,” the Rev. Luke Fodor, rector at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, said. “We wanted to make sure the community had this as part of its collective remembrance.”
Jessica Frederick, minister of children, youth and families, said the church will honor the victims of drug overdose by hanging prayer flags from the top of the bell tower to the Main Street entrance of the church for this weekend’s events.
She said strips of fabric have been written on in honor of those who died from a drug overdose over the past year.
“On each of the strips, we have prayers for those who have died and also prayers for healing and wholeness of the recovery community We invited people to write their prayers on the strips of fabric.”
RECOVERY SUNDAY EVENTS
This year, St. Luke’s Recovery Sunday events will begin on Saturday.
“We made a whole weekend out of it,” Fodor said. “On Saturday, we will start with an art recovery show.”
Fodor said in partnership with the Mental Health Association, an art and recovery class works on art throughout the year, which will be displayed at the Undercroft at St. Luke at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Food and refreshments will be provided at the event, celebrating the second year of the church’s art display.
Some of the art from the show will also be incorporated into St. Luke’s Sunday morning service.
Fodor said one of the pieces featured at the church will be a piece that was inspired by an anger workshop.
“Sometimes we suppress our anger,” he said. “We don’t really deal with it and it pops up in inopportune times.”
The art therapy workshop provided this year allowed people to express their anger through art instead of actions. The art will be displayed before the altar at St. Luke’s for Recovery Sunday.
As part of Sunday’s service, the church bells will ring in remembrance of each person who has died as a result of overdosing in the past year. The service will incorporate a candle lighting, a reading of the names or initials for the victims of drug overdose and special music performed by people recovering from addiction.
After the service, there will be a narcan training available. The art exhibit from Saturday’s event will also be available for the public to view before and after the Sunday service. Additionally, Father Bernard’s Blessed Biscuits will be selling biscuits after Sunday’s service.
“We have a joint enterprise with the Mental Health Association of Father Bernard’s Blessed Biscuits,” Fodor said. “It’s a social enterprise where we sell dog biscuits. People who have fallen out of the workforce because of recovery issues or addiction or mental health can get back in the workforce slowly by learning some skills.”
The church’s Recovery Sunday reflects the commitment of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church to the idea that mental health is deeply connected with faith.
“This service is integral to the life of faith,” Fredrick said.
Recovery Sunday is one way Fodor believes the community ensure that the victims of drug abuse and drug overdose are remembered and honored.
One of the points Fodor wants to emphasize throughout the weekend’s events is the importance of connection.
“The opposite of addiction is connection,” he said. “So often, people feel disconnected, usually from themselves first and then the community, so they start to use various substances to deal with the pain. I think that’s true of all of us, whether it’s caffeine in the morning or whatever it is. We all have some sort of usage of chemicals to assist us to normalize our lives.”
St. Luke’s Recovery Sunday will attempt to remove the stigmatization of people who struggle with addiction and mental health.
Fodor said the community’s fear of people who struggle with mental illness or drug usage can lead to people passing judgment on them or labeling them as “outsiders.”
“My hope is that folks will see that this is something that we can make tangible steps by changing our minds,” he said. “So often, the mindset we use is part of the problem. My hope is that through these kind of collective actions that we will begin to realize that we can’t make them other, but realize that we are all part of the same issue.”
While Fodor acknowledged that the problem of mental health and drug abuse will not be solved “over night,” he believes the community can take steps to solve it by working together and having compassion for those who struggle with addiction.
Fodor said “real healing” occurs people have compassion for one another and work together to solve problems in the community.
FAITH AND HEALING
Fodor believes the work of the Mental Health Organization represents the concepts of resurrection and regeneration.
“Lives that were seemingly dead come back to life,” he said.
Frederick said the church’s interactions with people struggling through mental health difficulties and drug usage should mirror the biblical example of Jesus.
“Jesus was always spending time with people that others would want to overlook,” she said. “This is an essential component of our faith to see people as people. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what mistakes you’ve made or how you’ve been wounded. We all carry wounds and we are all in some form of recovery. That is how Jesus saw and interacted with people.”
Fodor explained one of the key ways to successfully navigate the battle of addiction recovery is to provide meaningful connections with people.
While people may have the desire to feel “whole,” he believes the concept of wholeness cannot be achieved without the community working together.
“They need to be connected to something greater than themselves to find that,” he said.
The task of creating connections is something Fodor believes the church should be responsible for. He said the church should not expect people to attend the church to find help, but that the church should be involved in the community.
“Jesus talked about the 99 sheep that were fine but the one that was lost,” he said. “Sometimes we need to go out and look. By partnering with the Mental Health Association and by making public art displays, we’re trying to say and communicate ‘we’re looking for the lost.’”