Come in, come in and sit down, you are a part of the family.
We are lost and we are found, and we are a part of the family.
From a hymn by James K. Manley


This song began every Sunday morning service at the church where I attended for many years. The choir, dressed in their long blue robes, sang it as they slowly walked down the centre aisle. The pastor followed behind.

This was the first church I attended when I became a believer.

When I think back to my years there, all I remember are happy times. I was like a child, given the freedom to play—to create to her heart’s content in the midst of people who cared about her. I don’t remember any significant feelings of rejection.

I was active in many ways:

  • producing a church cookbook, followed by a launch where people brought food items from the cookbook,
  • visiting shut-ins,
  • publishing Easter and Christmas booklets for members of the church to bring to shut-ins,
  • helping with the Fall Fair and publicizing it,
  • photographing church life.
  • I eventually became an elder.

Best of all was the weekly Bible Study I was part of for the entire time I attended this church. I loved that group and sorely miss it, even now. Studying the Bible with others is one of the best ways of developing friendships.

I didn’t talk much about my mental health problems here, but in 1993, the Vancouver Sun published an article about my time at Riverview Hospital and what that was like for a nineteen year old. My name  and picture were both included with the article.

When I arrived at church the next Sunday, I was welcomed with hugs. They were proud of me for coming out. I remember no negative reactions and I kept all my friends. There were  two or three in particular who I spent a fair amount of time with.

In the years 2000 and 2001, at a time when mental illness was seldom talked about in churches, the church gave me the okay to organize two depression seminars. One featured Dr. Roy Bell, a Baptist pastor, and psychiatrist Dr. Alfred Adrian. The speaker for the second seminar was psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Long. I think the church was delighted to have it happen. In fact, at the second seminar, the ladies surprised us with a huge lunch buffet.

This church was one of the first to help advance the work I ended up dedicating my life to—raising mental health awareness.

I felt well accepted and loved. Encouraged to contribute whatever I felt inspired and best able to do. My confidence grew. I had been accepted as an integral part of the congregation. Not set apart and not made to feel different from others. I have learned how important that is.

This has been part 12 of my series My Journey from Patient to Leader. Read Part 13: A father and a mother