Letter to the Editor: Graham Worsnop

God will give us the strength to do what he asks - but he is also aware of our frailties and can also say -'Take a break' or even 'Enough, you need to stop'. How often do we listen to those words? How often do we allow others to listen to them? If we did, many issues may be prevented or even mitigated? God will heal, but we readily accept that illness and injury can leave lasting damage and disability and cope with that. That is, if they are from physical illness and injury. Far too often, we do not accept that if it stems from mental illness.

I have always had a tendency towards depression - despite being basically cheerful and positive in outlook. However, I often fail to be aware of the signs when sliding towards depression. I did suffer a breakdown (caused by domestic circumstances) some years back which took a while to recover from - but recover I did, and my first return to preaching was fittingly on an Easter Sunday. With time, all returned to normal, to the extent that I (like many in this neck of the woods - West Cumbria) was taking 13 services a quarter and holding a fairly pressured job. I did become aware of problems developing - you do eventually realise when you are preaching the same sermon every time, even if the opening varies. It had all become very formulaic. I did request, and was granted a quarter's sabbatical, but on returning, nothing had changed - until I again suffered a major breakdown, and was off work for 5 1/2 months. The trigger may have been work related, but the cause was preaching. It eventually transpired that I was (and always will) suffering from an underactive thyroid, which may have set the depression off as I ran out of steam.

I did eventually return to work, but have never been able to return to preaching. I have helped with some services, but time and again, when trying to plan or lead services, I just freeze inside. (Those who have been there will understand the feeling). Just as joints are no longer as supple as they once were and past injuries prevent me from moving in certain ways, I simply can not lead services any more. I am aware that my circuit is desperately short of preachers, and feel guilty that I cannot help out - but I simply cannot. My Superintendent is very understanding over this, and does not push - although she has encouraged me to help where I can.

These issues will happen to many throughout the church, but we need to be more open to them. If someone asks for a rest - we must help them to have one - and be sure that they are ready to pick up the reigns again. We must be ready to allow someone to say "Enough" - but how often do we say instead "oh no, you can't stop, however will we manage?" And if someone has stopped preaching or doing some other work due to mental health issues, we must be ready to accept that they may never be able to return to that work - in exactly the same was as if they had had a stroke or heart attack, say.

Once I would have echoed Paul's words - "It would be agony for me not to preach" - now it is not, because I know that I cannot.