Hiking up Acadia Mountain while camping in Maine was always a favorite family activity for us and our two kids. We ambled along picking wild blueberries, but always looked for the red arrows on trees and rocks to find the path. Occasionally, instead of a red arrow, the park rangers had gingerly stacked small rocks in an obvious place ahead, such that we knew it meant "this way." We avoided unmarked paths, first, because we wanted to get to the top and down before dark. Second, we followed the markers because we couldn't wait to see the breathtaking heights, look out across the islands and munch on our peanut butter sandwiches.
To me, NAMI FaithNet reminds me of those hiking trips and red arrows. It provides guidance to all of us NAMI members and people of faith who want to reach new heights of creating supportive faith communities for people living with mental illness. There are great rewards both along the way and when you reach your destination. The difference is: there is not just one path to creating caring congregations. NAMI FaithNet offers a wide variety of methods and resources for many types of ministries in faith communities of all religious traditions. The path is open to anyone who wants to participate-NAMI members and religious leaders.
Recently, NAMI FaithNet has struck out on a new path to clarify its direction, mission, methods and materials. Our mission is an important red arrow: NAMI FaithNet is an information resource network of NAMI members, friends, clergy, and congregations of all faith traditions who wish to create faith communities supportive of persons and families living with serious mental illness. With the marvelous support of NAMI National staff members, the NAMI FaithNet Advisory Board has agreed on a few other red arrows: a Guidelines Statement describing our parameters and methods, a new graphic providing an unspoken message of welcome and nurture, and in the coming months, creation of a NAMI FaithNet brochure, and re-design of the NAMI FaithNet e-newsletter and Web pages.
Red arrow resources that we urge you to use right away are those for Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 5-12) and the National Day of Prayer (Tuesday, October 7). There, you'll find examples of readings, services, and prayers. Take them to your faith leader and ask for permission to help plan a special service or weave them into a regular service.
We welcome your responses and participation in the creation of NAMI FaithNet - "your information resource network.. " Please send us your red arrow ideas of reaching out to faith communities. Won't you join us on this path to reaching new heights of creating supportive communities for people living with mental illness? I assure you, there are blueberries along the way and a great view at the top.
Yours for the Journey,
Editor, FaithNet Column and
Chairperson of NAMI Indianapolis' Faith Communities Education Project (FaithCEP)