By David Lichter
I am so appreciative the many contributors to this issue of Vision on Mental Well-Being in the Time of Covid. Last spring, when we were beginning to hold our member listening and resource sessions on Zoom, I was struck by the initial sharing of stories of what was happening in our respective places of ministry that included numbers infected, overwhelming conditions, staff loads, distant practices, isolation in suffering and death, distance loved ones dealing with grief, and on and on. These were heavy, heart-breaking sessions.
Gradually, we moved a little from what was happening and what we were doing to what was happening to us and how we were. This reflection has not stopped, has it? We continue to wonder about the impact that this year-long pandemic has and will have on us, our loved ones, our colleagues, and those to whom we minister.
Researchers are beginning to publish articles on what they are learning. One I recently saw was in the Journal of Public Health, titled, “Health, spirituality and Covid-19: Themes and insights,” by Fides A. del Castillo. The abstract read: “Current researchers reveal the intimate link between health and spirituality. Among vulnerable populations, spirituality serves a critical purpose in a person’s well-being. One of the many established values of spirituality is that it helps people to deal with major life stressors. This has become more pronounced as the world grapples with the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. This paper explores the themes and insights from recent scholarly articles on health and spirituality as well as highlights the importance of spiritual care to human well-being.”
You, as NACC members, know and experience this every day – the gift of the healing ministry rooted in one’s own spirituality and the spiritual and religious resources of those with whom we minister.
I found myself going back to the value of the definition of spirituality crafted in 2009 at the Consensus Conference sponsored by the Archstone Foundation: “Spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.”
This definition was helpful to reflect on the challenges to mental and spiritual well-being, as all of the elements of this definition are threatened daily. What does this pandemic mean right now for me, for us, and for our future together? How has this pandemic affected my own sense of purpose, my motive for getting up in the morning and living this day? Then, I think about my experiences of being disconnected – from the moment (by bouts of distractedness), from the self (staying centered is tough at times), from the other (oh, the so many ways we experience distance!), from nature (as the virus infects us), and from the significant or sacred (as we seek new ways to understand and relate to our God). We are challenged in all of the elements of our spirituality in a complex way. Thus, our mental well-being is also challenged.
Again, I am so appreciative of those who contributed to this issue. We need to continue to reflect and learn from one another in these days and weeks. We need one another to nurture our spirits.