At Shalem we talk a lot about developing new, innovative partnerships between the professional mental health world and communities, such as schools, workplaces, congregations and neighbourhoods (see “Why Shalem? What Makes Shalem Unique”). Too often these two sectors work in isolation and are even suspicious of each other. The evidence, however, is quite clear: when it comes to supporting people who are most vulnerable, neither sector on their own can do it. But working together, leveraging the strengths of each, perhaps they can.
Everything that Shalem does is a demonstration project in a new, different partnership between these two worlds. And that partnership is proving to be so fertile that Shalem has developed a new platform from which to try to capture what we are learning about this collaboration. Perhaps from that vantage point we can even begin to influence the field of mental health in this direction, even as we continue to learn. That platform is called the Shalem Centre of Excellence and Learning in Community-Based Mental Health, and I want to describe two of its current activities.
The first is an extraordinary training event: on May 26, 2020, Shalem is bringing Dr. Dan Siegel, one of the leading persons in the world in understanding the most recent developments in neuroscience, trauma and attachment, to Hamilton for a full-day conference. The conference is called “Attachment, Trauma, and Psychotherapy: Neural Integration as a Pathway to Resilience and Well Being.” This promises to be a significant event in the mental health world in Ontario in 2020. You won’t want to miss it! And there is still time to catch the Early Bird rate if you register before April 15.
The second involves our FaithCARE (Faith Communities Affirming Restorative Experiences) work. With FaithCARE, congregations use “restorative practice” to nurture a Christ-centred way of thinking and being, where the focus is on creating safe spaces for real conversations that deepen relationship and create stronger, more connected communities.
FaithCARE’s core values are that everyone has God-given worth, that no one is disposable, and that conflict and harm are best dealt with by those directly affected. We offer a three-day training in helping to equip lay people and pastors to further live out these key relationship values. Guided by an inter-denominational Steering Group, FaithCARE has worked with over 100 congregations from 10 denominations since 2007.
That work has matured, so much so that members of our Steering Group are now creating four separate but linked resources—small books—to support churches as they engage in this journey, and as a supplement our training.
The first book, written by Bruce Schenk, will describe the restorative practice framework—an understanding of what it is to be human and in relationship—in a faith community context. The second book, written by Shalem staff member and Director of Restorative Practice Services Anne Martin, will focus on proactive restorative approaches to building healthy, engaged relationships, in part to prevent conflict, as an expression of that framework. The third book, written by Steve Young, will consist of stories of congregations using restorative circles and processes to resolve real conflict and repair harm. The fourth book, written by Bill Bickle, will be a devotional book, grounded in Scripture and prayer, usable by a congregation as part of its journey towards deeper relationship and stronger connection.
This is an exciting, fruitful development! Watch for more details, including about publication, as the work unfolds. We hope that these resources will support congregations as they assume responsibility for the emotional and relational dynamics that occur in their midst. We are pleased to have the platform of our Centre of Excellence and Learning from which to create them. And we are especially grateful for your support, as friends, partners and supporters of the ministry of Shalem, to make this possible.
Mark Vander Vennen, MA, M.Ed, R.S.W., is Executive Director of the Shalem Mental Health Network