Today, we are excited to publish the second part of our interview with Inspire member Chris Morris, compiler and editor of the soon-to-be-published and groundbreaking Whispers in the Pews: Voices on Mental Illness in the Church. The first part of this interview can be read here.
What was the hardest aspect of producing Whispers?
Editing the stories brought tears to my eyes so many times. Sometimes the tears were joyful, as I read of communities gathering around wounded people to bring hope, love, belonging, and a future. Other times, I would have to stop reading a story because I was overcome with sadness or anger over how someone was treated. This is not an easy book to read, and it wasn’t easy to edit. I’m proud of every single person who chose to contribute to Whispers in the Pews though, and I am happy to have played a part in sharing their stories with the world.
I’m sure there will be readers of this interview who would love to share their own stories of battling with mental illness. Do you have any plans (or hopes) to produce a second volume?
You’ve introduced a new idea to my mind that I am excited to explore. I can tell you this for certain – Llama Publishing will certainly have more resources for the church related to mental illnesses and chronic illnesses in the future. I will also be conducting some interviews on my writing site chrismorriswrites.com with those who have mental illness stories to share.
What do you hope people will take away from reading Whispers?
I hope people will take three things away from reading this book. Firstly, I hope their hearts are broken for the mentally ill that are surrounding them. Statistics says that one in four people suffer from a mental illness. So many of us walk around unaware of their plight. I hope Whispers in the Pews opens eyes and sensitizes hearts to the mentally ill.
Secondly, I hope people will examine their theology about mental illness. The theology that places the blame for mental illness on the person is incredibly painful. Not only that, it’s wrong. The person with generalized anxiety disorder doesn’t just “need to lay it at the feet of Jesus and stop worrying,” because worrying and anxiety are not the same thing.
Lastly, I hope churches seriously consider the way they approach the mentally ill. There are so many things that can be done to provide hope and encouragement spiritually to those who are suffering from a mental illness. The easiest action is to begin mentioning mental illness from the pulpit. In the same way a pastor might mention having a tough season in marriage, he can talk about having a season of depression. This shows us in the mental illness community that we are not freaks; we are instead going through a normal thing in life.
There must be members of Inspire, and others reading this interview, who have their own mental health issues. What would you like to say to them?
The very first thing I would say is to get help. You are not alone. You don’t need to walk this path on your own. It’s actually dangerous to try to make this journey without support.
Support comes via a lot of different avenues, and all can be valuable. So many mental health conditions can be tremendously helped with medication, and in many cases this medication can be prescribed by your primary care physician. I’d say to start there, if you haven’t already.
But only after you’ve “come clean” with your immediate family. They probably won’t be surprised. In most cases, they will support you getting help. A healthier you means a healthier family overall. Everyone wins when health increases.
There is almost always a spiritual dynamic at play with any mental illness, so ignoring this aspect can be dangerous. Find a pastor or mature believer you trust, and talk about what’s happening. Remember that the church does not always respond as we might hope, and be prepared for that. Use your discernment to carefully choose who you share your story with, and how you ask for help.
When will “Whispers in the Pews” be available?
Whispers in the Pews releases on November 16, 2018. And I can’t wait!
Thanks Chris, both for producing this book and for granting Inspire your time for this interview. It was an honor to interview you and to get to read the writings of all those that submitted to Whispers in the Pews.