In my post-sabbatical bulletin sharing about a month ago, I reflected that the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on church life and mental-emotional health as well as major trends of the Singapore Population Census 2020 were going to be key priorities for PSPC. Unfortunately, the tragic incident at River Valley High School expedited the need to address mental-emotional health¹. This communique sets out a framework for how PSPC envisions the church as a healing community as well as avail ourselves of the multilayered resources within and outside PSPC.
THE CHURCH AS A HEALING COMMUNITY
The Scripture, particularly the book of Acts, described the church as a koinonia (fellowship) of believers glorifying God and empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue the works of Christ through worship, teaching, evangelizing, discipling, serving and healing. As a healing community, the church provides holistic care for those who are broken in body, mind and spirit. This healing ministry is not just for those in full-time ministry or professional counsellors. Rather, “families, study groups, trusted friends, professional colleagues, employee groups, and other small bands of people often provide the help that is needed both in times of crisis and as individuals face the daily challenges of living… Local bodies of believers can bring a sense of belonging to the members, support to those who feel weak, healing to troubled individuals, and guidance as people make decisions and move towards maturity.”² The Christian community, through its network of relationships in cell groups, generational ministries and ministry teams, helps to expand our mental-emotional health resources which we can tap on at different times and seasons of our lives.
Therefore, in order to raise awareness and equip the congregation with a basic level of people-helping skills, the Pastoral Team will write weekly articles in the bulletin in the month of August. We encourage congregants to apply these basic people-helping skills in our families, cell groups, schools or workplaces.
– Fostering mental-emotional health (8 August)
• Attending Skill
– How to give undivided attention to those in need (15 August)
• Listening Skill
– How to foster active and empathetic listening (22 August)
• Responding Skill
– How to respond and help effectively (29 August)
THE THREE-LAYERED SUPPORT
PSPC also envisions the local church as a healing community working in partnership with other stakeholders such as school counsellors, mental health professionals and NGOs to promote mental-emotional health. This can be understood as a three-layered support:
1. Cell Group Support
In PSPC, the cell group is the key vehicle of discipleship and the first line of congregational care. When cell groups gather to study the Bible and pray for one another, mental-emotional-spiritual burdens can receive empathetic response and spiritual support. The Cell Group Leaders/ Co-leaders are also organized into Huddle Groups which are in turn facilitated by Prinsep Cell Group Ministry (PCGM) committee members. In these Huddle Groups, Cell Group Leaders/ Co-leaders themselves receive support and resources.
To provide Cell Group Leaders/ Co-leaders/ Ministry Leaders as well as Elders and Deacons with the necessary resources, the Pastoral Team will revise the “PSPC Visitation Handbook” into a “PSPC Congregational Care Handbook” by including the above-mentioned people-helping skills.
2. Church Level Support
The second layer of care comes from church level support. The Pastoral Team is deployed to provide care to the generational ministries that they are serving in: Children (Pr Mary Chhuani); Youth and Young Adults (Pr Adriel Yeo); Men (Aldran Wong); Ladies and Senior Members (Pr Dawn Tan); Mandarin-speaking congregants (Pr Cheam Wan Xian and Janice Lee). Congregants whose support network and coping strategies are insufficient to alleviate the weight they are carrying are urged to approach the respective Pastoral Staff.
In addition, PSPC congregation has almost 20 counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers. This is an internal list of professionals whom the Pastoral Team can consult regarding a whole range of mental-emotional issues. We will explore with them to consider conducting mental-emotional health seminars for specific generational ministries.
3. Community Wide Support
The third layer of care comes from community wide support. When the Pastoral Staff assesses that a congregant may need additional intervention by mental-health or social work professionals, we will refer him/her to community partners such as the Presbyterian Community Services (https://www.pcs.org.sg) or The Haven Counselling Centre at Singapore Bible College (https://www.sbc.edu.sg/resources/haven-counselling-centre). The Pastoral Staff will continue to come alongside to support the healing process by providing pastoral care through Scripture, prayer and spiritual formation. Furthermore, there are other community resources which congregants may approach or be referred to:
National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868 (8am - midnight)
Samaritans of Singapore Hotline: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours)
Institute of Mental Health’s Helpline: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
Singapore Association of Mental Health Helpline: 1800-283-7019 (Weekdays, 9am - 6pm)
TOUCHline (TOUCH Youth): 1800-377-2252 (Weekdays, 9am - 6pm)
Fei Yue’s Online Counselling Service: https://www.ec2.sg/ (Weekdays, 10am - noon, 2pm - 5:30pm)
The Scripture exhorts each of us to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). May this prayer of Charles Lewis Slattery (1867 - 1930), Bishop of Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, inspire us towards the biblical vision of koinonia. Amen.
“Grant, O Lord, that in all the joys of life we may never forget to be kind.
Help us to be unselfish in friendship,
thoughtful of those less happy than ourselves,
and eager to bear the burdens of others.”
Rev Darryl Chan
With PSPC Pastoral Team
1 August 2021
¹ WHO warned of ‘long-term’ COVID-19 impact on mental health (https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/covid-19-impact-on-mental-health-who-15271306); “Schools need a lot more resources and support to help students with mental health issues”: President Halimah (https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/river-valley-high-school-death-halimah-yacob-mental-health-15274518).
² Gary R. Collins, “Christian Counselling: A Comprehensive Guide”, pages 20-21.