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Durham University

Centre for Spirituality, Theology & Health

News & Announcements

Christians Hearing Voices: Affirming Experience and Finding Meaning

by Christopher C. H. Cook

Christians Hearing Voices presents and reflects upon a series of first-hand accounts of Christian experiences of spiritually significant voice hearing. In doing so, it provides a different perspective than previously published research, seeking to find meaning within a wide range of different experiences, many of which have been affirming and life-giving for the individuals concerned. However, it also explores examples of distressing voices and the ways in which these are handled within clinical services and church communities. The diversity of contexts within which such experiences arise, the variety of forms that they take, and the very different meanings that they are taken to have for those concerned, suggests that religious (specifically Christian) voice hearing may be less homogenous than some previous accounts have implied.

The stories included within the book raise a variety of questions for clinical and pastoral care which are explored within the final two chapters. How can a priest, pastor or clinician most helpfully respond to someone who believes that God has spoken to them? Are traditional church practices (deliverance or exorcism) or traditional psychiatric treatments most appropriate for someone who hears demonic voices? How can family, other Christians, and helping professionals best respond in supportive but wise ways? The book explores possible responses with a view to affirming experience and finding meaning within spiritually significant voices whilst not avoiding the difficult questions.

To buy the book, click below:

For Chris Cook's interview on the book (video & full transcript), click here.

For further information on Christians Hearing Voices, click here.

New Mental Health Reflections published by the Church of England

A series of reflections on how to cope with anxiety and loneliness in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, including simple Christian meditation techniques and five tips, are published today by the Church of England.

A number of actions that could help people feeling isolated or worried, as well as those who grieve, are put forward in a new guide Supporting Good Mental Health and written by Durham University academic Revd Professor Chris Cook with Ruth Rice Director of the Christian mental health charity Renew Wellbeing.

* * * Click here to view and download the guide * * *

The booklet gives advice ranging from putting aside time to rest and eating and sleeping well, to using the phone and the internet to reach those who may be struggling on their own. Making a list of all the good things – and people – that you miss when you are on your own and thanking God for them, can be a way of helping cope with loneliness, the guide says.

Simple prayers can be said repeatedly as a mean of helping to deal with stress, the booklet says, and lighting a candle, where safe, can be a helpful form of prayer for some people. Quotations from the Bible can be a useful aide to meditation and calming fears, including writing down and repeating short passages, it suggests.

A phrase such as Psalm 18:1 ‘The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer’ could be chosen for each week and used as background for a mobile phone as a ‘go to’ thought when someone is anxious.

It also suggests repeating a simple phrase from the Psalms such as Psalm 4:8 ‘I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety,” to help calm the mind before sleeping.

The Rt Rev James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle and the Church of England’s lead bishop on health and social care, said: “I welcome publication of these further resources and reflections around mental health, which build on resources already made available by the Church of England nationally.

“For some time now the issues of loneliness and isolation have been identified as major problems within our society. The coronavirus pandemic will only create further challenges in this respect. So it is vital that we do all we can as a church to protect people’s mental wellbeing.

“The reflections are beautifully presented and scripturally based, with the ‘Have A Go’ sections intentionally focussing on how people should be kind to themselves. That is so important at this time. My prayer is that as many people as possible are able to draw upon these new resources over the coming weeks and months.”

In addition, the Church has published five tips for tackling loneliness and isolation:

  1. Pray. Light a candle, if safe, and pray for hope, faith and strength to keep loving and caring for each other during this time of struggle.
  2. Talk about how you feel. This may be difficult if you are self-isolating, but do use the telephone, internet, and social media. If you need to contact a counsellor this can be arranged by your GP, or via local agencies, or privately. Samaritans are there 24 hours a day, every day, and it’s free to call them on 116 123.
  3. Focus on the things that you can change, not on the things you can’t.
  4. Look after yourself - physically, emotionally, spiritually. Plan in things that you enjoy at regular intervals during the day – a TV programme, a phone call, a book, a favourite dish, a game.
  5. Look after others. Even if only in small ways, but do what you can: a smile, a kind word, writing a letter or an email.

Spirituality during the challenging COVID-19 times

A video by Fred Craigie, Ph.D. and clinical psychologist, on spirituality, healing relationships, resilience, and wellbeing. Dr Craigie is a clinical psychologist, consultant, educator, speaker, and writer. In 2015, he transitioned from a 37-year full-time faculty role at the Maine-Dartmouth Family Medicine Residency in Augusta, Maine, where he coordinated behavioral health teaching for residents and students and provided behavioral health care to a largely underserved primary care population. He holds appointments as Visiting Associate Professor at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine (AzCIM) at the University of Arizona College of Medicine (Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine) and Associate Professor of Community and Family Medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.

In his words: "Spirituality has been a resource for healing and resilience and wellbeing since long before the dawn of recorded human history. And particularly in the last 20 or 30 years, there's very significant scientific evidence for the beneficial role of spiritual and religious beliefs and practices in life satisfaction, and quality of life..."

* * * Click here to watch the video * * *


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