I have a story about a group of people who accompany me, Psalm 139 style, through this life. By that, I mean that these are people who accompany me, as God does, in the highs and the lows of life, including during times of depression. This group is my prayer group. My prayer group consists of six women and we all met in seminary at Andover Newton Theological School. We first got together when one of the members knocked on everyone else’s door asking “do you want to start a prayer group?” We all said yes and soon began meeting each week. When we met we would start with reading an opening piece of poetry and lighting a candle. Then, we would, one by one, go around the room and share about our weeks. We’d update one another about the parts of our lives that needed prayer and support– relationships with our families, challenging classes, discernment about our future vocations, and more. We would then hold hands, alternating one palm up and one palm down. And, then we would pray. For as long as it took to lift up all these pressing issues on our hearts. It was through this practice of weekly supporting one another that we forged deep soul-connecting bonds. We ended up praying in other contexts too- at our ordinations (during the laying on of hands), and at our weddings. All of this laid the foundation for relationships built on truly knowing one another and a commitment to accompany one another.
During the winter of 2016 which I wrote about in my last Mental Health Network blog post, as I experienced deep depression, I leaned on my prayer group. And, I sought help from my prescriber, who decided to add some new medications and adjust others.
After the adjustments were made, I came home from the pharmacy and opened the bags. I was faced with an array of new pills. Some were brand new and others were new dosages, looking unfamiliar as I stared at them.
- One was white,
- Another was blue,
- Another was orange.
- I know so many of you who are reading this have been in that same situation that I was in– staring at new medication meant to help you find peace and balance.
But in that moment, It can be overwhelming. It was for me.
I had feelings of being defeated and helpless as I stared at these new medications. But, That’s when prayer group stepped in. Some from the group came over to my house and other phoned in from out of state.
We held hands around the new medications, which I placed on a fancy plate instead of in those sterile orange bottles. And we prayed as we always pray together. The group prayed blessings of hope and health and healing over these medications. They infused the science and chemicals that the pills represented with faith and a belief in new life and resurrection. They turned an often isolating and shame inducing experience into something that was truly holy and done in community. They blessed the experience. They accompanied me, fully. In blessing the medications, my prayer group worked to remind me who I was– someone beloved, and valued, a part of a community. And, they accompanied me, their presence ministered to me.
May we all find ways to accompany one another through the highs and lows of this life. Remind us to lean on one another and on your Holy presence in all situations, especially the scary ones. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Ciarán Osborn (he/him)
Rev. Dr. Ciarán Osborn is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, serving in the Boston metro area. He has served as Pastor of several UCC churches in the Boston area as well as in clinical Chaplain positions. Throughout his ministry, Rev. Ciarán has officiated weddings, baptisms, and memorial services in the wider community.
Rev. Ciarán also lives with chronic mental health conditions. He writes, teaches, and preaches regularly on the topics of mental health, mental illness, and faith. Rev. Ciarán writes for the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network. Ciarán is a board game nerd and hiking and Krav Maga enthusiast. His family lives in the Boston area and they share their life with numerous dogs and chickens.