The Anglican Parish of St. George has a unique proposition for the right person: free office space for a pastor/family therapist to set up a practice in the community.
They’re looking for a Christian counsellor with a professional designation who will devote some time to the parish, but also build a clientele and serve the town of 1,500 on the Bay of Fundy.
“It’s an unmet need in the church and the community,” said Mary Anne Langmaid, rector of St. Mark’s. “I’ve walked it myself.”
Not long ago, she took a bold step in the form of a poll of her congregation: How many here are being treated for some sort of emotional illness or love someone who is?
“85 per cent raised their hands,” she said. “What do we have in common? Mental health issues.”
Mary Anne wasn’t really surprised by the feedback. She sees it in the small community almost every day — parishioners, families, children, people connected to the church and community members coming in to talk about their issues, desperate for help that is often difficult to find.
She’s taken people to counsellors, to hospitals that were unfriendly and off-putting, and sometimes, there is nowhere to go.
“I see the pain of people and how they can’t find help,” she said.
This pressing need has been on the parish’s mind for quite some time. They did some initial work with former parish development officer Ken Neilson, himself a certified counsellor and ordained minister. He came and checked out the space, supporting Mary Anne’s and the parish’s desire to meet the need.
Then the parish moved into a visioning exercise with current PDO Shawn Branch, realizing they needed to move forward.
“The room is painted, the furniture is ready and we’re back on track,” said Mary Anne.
They have a job ad ready to publish and pray for the right candidate to take them up on their offer.
“This person must be a professional counsellor to be paid by insurance companies,” she said. “And we will need to raise funds for those who don’t qualify or run out of coverage.
“We want this person to work with us as a team member. We’re Holy Spirit-driven so we need someone who wants that too.”
While there is no shortage of family issues in the community, there are also plenty of individual needs that aren’t being met.
“I want to have someone here, so I can say, ‘we have someone. We’ll get you set up. We have someone for you,’” she said. “For us to watch how healing happens when God’s doing the leading, well, we’ve learned how God can actually heal. You don’t have to live life just coping.”
The parish’s dream is to see families coming together, growing in faith and healing. They’re already doing what they can to achieve that dream.
Thursday evenings in the parish are a time to come together, have a meal and then allow God to lead.
“We’re open on Thursday nights for anything needed, for people to worship, to pray, interceding for whatever you’re struggling with,” said Mary Anne.
“At least once a month we end up in some sort of prayer ministry. We read scripture, share and have discussion. Anything goes. And when something happy is going on, we lift that up.”
On Monday nights at the church, mental health professionals are part of a support group for people dealing with depression, anxiety and stress.
With so many similar activities, it’s easy to see where their heart lies.
“We’re a healing church. That is our focus,” said Mary Anne. “When we ask, ‘what do we want here,’ it always comes back to children and healing.”
Barb Hoffman, a vestry member and retired teacher in the parish, backs the plan wholeheartedly.
“I believe it’s something very much needed in the area,” she said. “I know it’s the same everywhere, but Charlotte County for some reason has high statistics.”
Like Mary Anne, she’s not sure how their plan will play out, but she believes the time is right to act.
“There is a push for the church to get out into the community and I believe we have to reach out and give help where it’s needed,” she said. “If we can be of help at all, it’s important to do so.”
There have been the low-key attempts to address the issue, but actually seeking a therapist for their town and their parish is something quite different.
“We’ve been pursuing this for years, but this is a big, concrete step,” said Mary Anne. “If I was asked, where would I take a cause, it’s this. This is our passion.”
Contact the Anglican Parish of St. George for more details on the job description: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rev. Mary Anne Langmaid with the designated office space behind her. Ripples the church dog is also in the photo. McKnight photo