Clontarf Parish Launches a New Bereavement Support Service

The Dublin Bereavement Support Service (DBSS) was launched by Clontarf Parish. Comprising of a team of trained bereavement counsellors who are volunteering their time and expertise, the service will initially operate via Zoom until such time as it can safely transition to a person-to-person counselling service.

The new DBSS was born out of conversations between the Rector, Rev. Lesley Robinson, and parishioners Jim Kieran and Dr. Tony Walsh, both of whom are experienced bereavement counsellors, focussing on the impact that the pandemic and all the associated restrictions have had on the experience of loss and grief. Not only have many families lost a loved one to Covid-19, most of whom could not be with the dying person in their final days and hours, but everyone who has been bereaved over the course of the last year has been denied many of the supports and rituals which are usually such an important part of the grieving process. All of this is so counter-intuitive and counter cultural in a society like ours which normally puts such emphasis on the rituals around death and bereavement and will no doubt lead to a lot of unprocessed grief around the loss of loved ones. Jim used his network to bring on board a number of trained and experienced counsellors who agreed to be a part of this new venture, and the seed which had been sown began to sprout.

Although the DBSS is run under the auspices of Clontarf Church of Ireland parish, and is rooted in the Christian calling to show love and compassion to all, the service will be offered in an impartial, non-judgemental way which will not seek to impose religious beliefs on others and will acknowledge that people’s experiences of grief may differ, but all are equally valid.

The support service is offered free of charge although donations can be given if desired. Prospective clients can contact the volunteer counsellors directly by accessing the contact details on the DBSS website.

We hope you will avail of this service, and please pass on the information to those who many need it.

Taken from the press release announcing the Dublin Bereavement Support Service

Sympathies on the death of Reverend Canon William Stanley Baird RIP

Reverend Canon William Stanley Baird

Warden: Church’s Ministry of Healing Ireland 1971-1979.

Died on June 12th, 2021

Reverend Canon Daniel Nuzum Chairman and the Board of Directors of CMH:Ireland would like to express their sadness on hearing of Stanley’s death and extend their deepest sympathy to Helen and family.

Canon Stanley Baird was appointed Warden of the Church’s Ministry of Ireland in 1971 and had deep commitment to Christ’s Healing Ministry and had significant experience in his ministry across the island of Ireland. Stanley developed an excellent relationship with members of the medical profession and was very involved in hospital ministry. He was respected for his sensitive and   pastoral style and was invited to speak at conferences in many countries.

Stanley retired as Warden in 1979 and was appointed Rector of Drumcondra and North Strand and later in Swords. He continued to hold Healing services in these parishes until his retirement.

We give thanks for Stanley’s ministry and his commitment to the ministry of healing and pray that he rests in the love and peace of Christ.

Resurrection, when Jesus walks through a closed door. Guided prayer

I invite you to pray with Resurrection stories that the Gospel writers tell us about.
Praying with the Resurrection helps us to see its reality in our own lives.

Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably. Put your feet firmly on the ground, with your back straight.
Know that God is with you.

Allow silence and God’s presence within it to sip into your soul.

In one of the accounts John tells us,

“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you’. When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’.” (John 20: 19-23)

Read the passage again.
Take 10-15 minutes and pray with it.

What word(s) stand out for you?

If it helps you, be free to close your eyes and imagine yourself in the scene.
Where are you when Jesus walks through a closed door?
How do you feel?

Engage with Jesus. Tell Him how you are.
Listen to what He tells us.

Stay with Jesus for as long as you would like.

When you are ready, finish this time of prayer with the Lord’s prayer.
If the prayer spoke to you, you can repeat it at another time, or choose a different Scripture to pray with.

Easter blessings.

© Dr. Iva Beranek

Lent, when Jesus enters our desert

“The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51: 17

These days many people are struggling. Some struggles are common for we all share the human condition. And yet there are struggles that are unique to each individual, because we cannot know what each person is dealing with, unless they tell us about it. I cannot know what you had to deal with in the past year nor what you had to overcome in order to come to this point. But God does. God knows our hearts.

Normally in Lent we say that we join Jesus in the desert. Having gone through a number of lockdowns since March 2020, and being in lockdown – at least in Ireland – still, the image of a desert may not be as inspiring. We have had our shares of the desert moments throughout the year.

Lent also coincides with Spring in Ireland. It order to burst into bloom, flower-seeds need to rest in the dark of the soil, let go of what they know, and embark on the journey of growth. As they do that, gradually small shoots come out on the surface, and with the support of sunshine, water and nutrients, they grow into beautiful flowers.

Can you notice areas in your life that are undergoing a similar journey?

I like to think of Isaiah 61 as we start Lent,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good need to the poor. He has sent me….. to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

Jesus is the one who has been anointed & who exchanges the difficult realities into those where His glory shines forth. This is especially true for the Holy Week, so when we come to it this year, let us allow Him to bring healing into our lives and to lead us through our difficulties, towards His glory.

Until then, it may be helpful to look at this Lent this way: not that we are joining Jesus in the desert but instead He is joining us in our own deserts. And His presence makes all the difference.

© Dr Iva Beranek

Reaching out

What a time it’s been these past few months of needing to live differently, for our own safety and for that of others. How counter-intuitive it has been having to pull back from family and friends, with some of us having to cocoon or even self-isolate in order to ensure community health and well-being.

We are designed to be relational, both with one another and with our Creator. While some have found the enforced period of slowing down and reduced activity to be refreshing, many have found that the pressures inherent in the sudden adaptations required have increased stress, anxiety and ongoing troubles.

As Christians we sometimes find it difficult to reach out for help, berating ourselves for needing to depend on others since all our hope is founded on God.

How good it is to remember that as our loving Father draws us to himself He reaches us in a myriad of ways. Sometimes He touches us through prayer, the Scriptures, through worship and often through the beauty of nature. Other times He cares for us through the words, deeds, kind gestures or simply coming alongside us of other people when we are experiencing a particular need or difficulty.

‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46:1) reminds us of His provision. ‘For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you’ (Isaiah 41:13) reassures us of his concern for our wellbeing. Jesus met people where they were at, longing to bring healing and hope into their lives.

One of the many supports available to us in these times is the charity Aware. Aware runs a Support Line 365 days a year, from 10am till 10pm (1800804848). Callers receive support and information about coping with stress, anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder. All calls are confidential within normal limits. A range of beneficial resources and programmes are available through www.aware.ie.

It may take courage to ask for help, but when we do it, we are grateful for taking that step.

 

Jeanne Salter
Jeanne Salter is a Board member of CMH:I & an Aware volunteer

Prayer at a time of social distancing

Prayer is life-giving and also not always easy. God is not ‘socially distant’ so one might think that prayer is to be the same at the time of lockdown, as it was before or as it will be after. But when life changes, often prayer changes as well.
Any authentic prayer will reflect what is going in our life, too.

Over the last number of months we have had to quickly adapt to an online experience of communal worship. Prayer meetings and church services all moved from in-person gatherings to online. While this provided continuity in praying together in a new format, it may have also been overwhelming to a degree. All human interaction moved to online encounters. Now with the easing of restrictions and being able to go to church again, this new phase will bring much needed comfort to some, and will prove to be an additional challenge to others.

If your prayer changed over the last months, or you found it hard to pray, don’t judge yourself for it.
If your prayer carried you through, be grateful. Thank God for it.
If it was somewhere in-between, know you are human and God loves you as you are.
Experiences of fertile valleys and of deserts are both very common in life and in prayer. If you experienced any combination of these during the months of lockdown – take heart.

Where did you find God over the last few months?

For me He seeped into my alone time in the house, like sap drips from the tree giving it life.
“Sap carries important nutrients, water and hormones through the tree that are essential for a healthy plant.” We may judge it as sticky or unpleasant, but for trees it is essential. Trees drip more sap when damaged, when attacked by pests or diseases. At the times of difficulty, perhaps God drips more sap into our lives, by being near through His grace, mercy, love.

What kind of sap did God drip in your life?

Having to incorporate social distancing in our every-day life for now is not natural. Handshake, a hug when meeting a friend, instead of providing human connection have become ‘dangerous’. And yet, we still need them. Grieving these changes will hit some of us harder than others, but allow yourself to grieve if you need to. Bring exactly how you feel to prayer, be real with God in communal worship, in your alone times. Notice what you are grateful for, and where you need healing.

May God drip his healing oil into all aspects of your life. In Isaiah God promises us “the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit” (Isaiah 61:3).
May it be so for us today. Amen

Iva Beranek
Dr Iva Beranek is the Ministry Facilitator for the CMH: Ireland

Consecrating empathy

One time, after Jesus was busy ministering to people and healing them, He went to a
solitary place to pray.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up,
left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else, to the nearby villages, so I can preach there also. That is why I have come. (Mark 1:35-38)”

Jesus had a freedom to say ‘No’ to certain demands in order to do what He was called to do. This came out of His prayer life and relationship with God the Father. If we are to follow in Jesus’ footsteps then we are to have the same discerning spirit.

Our lives have changed drastically over the last few weeks, with restrictions of movement, many places, schools and churches closing down – for now. People with children are probably busier than before. People living on their own restricting human connection to mostly online encounters. Doctors, nurses, and those working in shops serving the country “on the front line”.

While demands have changed – increased for some, reduced for others – our ability to care for each other, and for the world around us, has been put on overdrive. The positive elements to it show us we are all connected. Our hearts are challenged to expand, to include the whole world in our prayer. But this can also be overwhelming.

The wisdom from John Eldredge may give us much needed peace. Eldredge speaks about “consecrating empathy”. Watching the news can easily overwhelm us. Yet the answer is not in shutting down every negative story we might hear and doing nothing. Instead, what we can do is “consecrate our capacity to care” (Eldredge). In other words, we can say a brief prayer and join our own capacity for care with Jesus’ capacity, which is infinitely greater. This way we are also giving God permission to direct us, to guide us how to use this capacity.

Having invited Jesus to help us in this caring process may eventually increase our own capacity in loving others, deepen our prayer, and bring creative solutions to our actions. Above all, it might increase the peace in our hearts, the peace that surpasses understanding. The more inner peace increases, the more peace there will be in the world too.

 

Iva Beranek
Dr Iva Beranek is the Ministry Facilitator for the CMH: Ireland

Gratitude as a Lenten practice

“In 12 years of research, I have never interviewed a single person with the capacity to really experience joy who does not also actively practice gratitude.”
Brené Brown

Practicing gratitude is simple. It does not requite any special skill, like riding a bicycle for example would. We can write our gratitude notes in a journal or on small pieces of paper that we put into a jar (“a gratitude jar”). While the practice is simple, it is good to be reminded of the value of gratitude.

Research has shown that gratitude can improve both mental and physical health, and “not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health”.* A number of studies revealed other benefits, such as improvement in self-esteem, better sleep, reduced stress and even a help in overcoming trauma.

I have been writing a gratitude journal for a few years now. When I read through it I notice I am often grateful for small things. Or maybe better to say ordinary things, like sunshine, a fox in my garden, hot water – hot water features quite regularly in my gratitude notes. Green grass, a conversation with a friend, a pressed Autumn leaf in my notebook, especially since I found it at the beginning of Spring.

In “One thousand gifts”, Ann Voskamp describes her practice of writing one thousand gratitude notes into a journal. This practice gradually transformed her. When she was young, something tragic happened in her family and it marked the rest of her life. As a grown up woman, she had lovely six children, a husband, they lived on a farm, but her daily living was marked with anxiety and worry. Until she started to write the gratitude notes in her journal. She started noticing that her days were filled with beauty. Interestingly, a lot of the things she wrote about were also every-day and simple. 

           “243. Clean sheets smelling like wind
             244. Hot oatmeal tasting like home
             245. Bare toes in early light”
           [Ann Voskamp, “One thousand gifts”, p. 55]

We have just started our Lenten journey. Lent is a time where we reflect on Jesus’ time in the desert. We journey with Jesus towards His final days on earth, His death and resurrection. I have never been in an actual desert, but I am sure that even there we can find things to be grateful for. Some deserts bloom with flowers during certain seasons.

There can be an oasis in the desert, and it must feel almost like a little miracle to come across one. Perhaps those who travel in the desert become aware of the essentials they need. We can be grateful for company, water, food, a shelter for the night. Even if we are not going to go physically into the desert, we can experience that life sometimes provides ‘desert-experiences’. During the difficult times, too, we can practice gratitude, and it may help to ground us into the experience of God’s goodness.

In Lent, at least liturgically, we don’t sing Alleluia, which is exclamation of relief and ultimate victory. But the prayers are still filled with praises to God. Those praises, as well as noticing gifts of each day, are a bit like new buds on the trees as Spring is gradually bursting into bloom. The more blossoms we notice, the more grateful we feel.

If we take gratitude as our Lenten practice, noticing goodness in life will guide us from the praises of God’s goodness towards the Easter Alleluia. We might even notice that some of the desert places within us bloomed as we did that.

Iva Beranek
Dr Iva Beranek is the Ministry Facilitator for the CMH: Ireland

Advent – when light makes a difference in the dark

Each Sunday in Advent, we light a candle on our Advent wreath, flickering and shining their light into our churches and homes. As the evenings grow shorter, we can see the candles clearly. They appear brighter and more distinct to us the darker it becomes, and as nighttime falls, they appear quite brilliant in the inky surroundings, little beacons of light in a sea of darkness. And the light from a single candle can be seen from a great distance in total darkness.

According to scientific study, the human eye could detect the flicker of a candle in total darkness, with a direct line of sight, at 46km away, or 30 miles. It seems an impossible task for a tiny little flame to emit light that can be seen from that distance but it can. And the strange thing is that that little beam of light can be seen further the darker the world around it is. Truly light can cut through darkness, the light only becomes stronger the darker it gets.

In our day to day lives, it is all too easy to become a little down trodden, to become overwhelmed with our own worries and concerns. Yet we are not alone. If a small bulb or a candle can shine far out into the darkness, how much further can the light of Jesus’ love shine? As the mirrors of a lighthouse amplify and direct light into the darkness, so too can we take that light that Jesus brings to us and reflect it in how we live our lives and in how we share our lives with others, in how we treat others. In this season of Advent, we can reflect that light and that love into the darkest corners of our world. Jesus is the bearer of that light, his healing love is there for all, yet it is up to us to open the door and let it shine into our lives, into our world.

Rev Ross Styles

Grief at a time of Advent

Grief is never easy. But some times of the year it may be amplified. I have friends who recently lost people close to them. It’s hard to see their pain, and yet only by witnessing the pain – ours and someone else’s – will we find healing in it. 

Whether the loss was recent or from the years past, the closer we are to the season of Christmas the more painful some memories become. On the other hand, Advent in its gentleness, like candles lit in the dark nights, can provide a cloak of comfort. Advent is a season of gentle contrasts: darkness in which light comes, longing for hope into which hope is born, desire for peace that comes out a deep anguish and a need for change. It is Christ coming into our humanity, bringing us His light, hope, peace. But this coming comes softly, like the frost on the winter grass. 

If you are in a season of grief and if the pain of memory knocks on your door each morning, know there is nothing wrong with you. It is not only human, but also healthy to allow ourselves to feel all the nuances of emotion we experience. Grief is painful, but only by walking through it will darkness of the night lead us towards the dawn.

Often when we light a candle, its wax drips, like tears. Light a candle, sit next to it, and allow your emotions to surface. Weep if you feel like weeping. Know that God is with you. You are not alone. You are never alone. Let Him cradle you in His love, comfort you, love you. God can hear all your questions. He hears the screams of your pain, and screams of the silence of your heart. You are not alone.

Yet if you are well enough, but you know someone who is in pain: sit with them. Allow them to talk. Don’t be quick to offer answers. Dry their tears. Be there. Show them that God cares by you caring for them. And know that God will sit down with you. He will cradle you both in His gentle presence and lit your inner candles in these dark nights. 

Iva Beranek
Dr. Iva Beranek is the Ministry Facilitator for CMH:I