Several months have passed since Mark updated us on his plans to retire. Our staff and board have shared many words of thanks to him for his countless contributions to Shalem, and we have now set out on a new leg of Shalem’s journey together.
And what a time to sail! At the time of our last newsletter, Shalem was navigating the new pandemic storm along with everyone else. We worked to pivot and adapt to meet the mental health needs in our community, and prepared to transition to a new executive director. Those changes are now behind us, and it is a privilege to support Shalem in this next chapter of agency life.
This transition is happening in the midst of several key processes.
First, like many mental health resources around the world, Shalem is bursting at the seams. Our programs are working hard to respond to the deep need in our communities caused by isolation and heightened symptoms of mental illness. After reviewing our numbers recently, we discovered that during the pandemic, our counselling sessions increased by 30% at our counselling centre. Like many organizations, we are actively working to ensure we can continue meeting the needs sustainably.
Secondly, we have been involved in the Christian Reformed Church’s process around the most recent Sexuality Report. The CRCNA reached out to us, asking us to equip their lay leaders to facilitate Listening Circles – a form of restorative Practice used in the context of challenging conversations. Our hope is to equip churches with the ability to have safe, meaningful listening times that allow for peace-building and increased understanding in the midst of controversy.
Another significant part of our transition time is our search for a new Clinical Director, the role in which I served since 2009. As I write this, we are collecting resumes, and will soon begin conversations with individuals considering this important role at Shalem. Our hope is that this new candidate will be able to support our vision moving forward with delivering outstanding care and leading in the practice of systemic, attachment-informed clinical practice.
In the midst of the activity, there are many things I am deeply grateful for. I’m so appreciative for our team of staff and board members committed to our work. I regularly find myself amazed at the selfless commitment and enthusiasm of our staff for our community, striving to deliver their programs in the midst of our transition and pandemic. I’ve also been deeply humbled at the tireless commitment of our board members, who have invested countless hours and care into Mark’s ending well, and my start in this role. Both staff and board have modelled purpose and commitment, inspiring me daily.
I’m also deeply grateful for our agency’s commitment to building understanding and change around systemic racism. We are now nine months into our learning process, engaging in conversations, reading, listening and training. It has been both deeply challenging and fruitful. I look forward to sharing with you in coming months how this learning will translate into change.
We invite to you to continue journeying with us. If we haven’t met, please don’t be a stranger. We’d love to connect with you, collaborate with you and learn from you. Peace to you on your journey –
Jennifer Bowen, M.Div., RMFT, RP is the Executive Director of Shalem Mental Health Network.