I’m on somewhat shaky ground here. Me and religion mix a little like oil and water. Never the two shall meet, despite being close at times. However, the Augustine United Church on George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, is opening its doors to the issue of mental health within spirituality for SMHAF and I’m keen to hear what is being said. 

I attend two events within the space of a week. The first is a drop-in service for those with mental health problems. I speak to a few of those in attendance and it quickly becomes apparent how important the sessions are for everyone here. Cups of tea are poured and stories are shared. I find out that these sessions have been going for some 20 years. That’s a lot of support. A lot of heart. We all watch a film about the drop-in history project which summarises these 20 years. The story is brave and self-effacing. At one point the narrator describes the group as like ‘a chimpanzee pack’. This speaks volumes about the atmosphere here. How there is comedy in what is also deadly serious. 

I am then taken by artist, Lewis Reay to see the new stained glass windows at the front of the church. The work is a triptych based on the theme of reclaim. Reclaim our stories, reclaim our space and reclaim our future. Reclaim our future has a particular resonance for me – how difficult it is to plan for the future when you’re up against a mental illness! I guess the work is saying that a future for those going through these experiences is possible. Just take your time. I leave the drop-in service looking forward to the Space to Be: Sunday Worship a few days later. 

What transpires on Sunday is a service which at its centre is the theme of peace. Again, as with the theme of planning for the future, peace can be elusive when dealing with mental illness. Minister Fiona Bennett describes how we can be peaceful when dealing with difficulty. Peace and difficulty can run side by side. 

The service used song, prayer, readings, interview, mindfulness and meditation to highlight how we might all find peace in difficult times. I leave the Augustine United Church feeling inspired and hopeful for the future. 

by David Lamond 

Having recovered, to a certain extent, from years of ill health, David is now studying at Fife College. David hopes to reclaim more of his identity by attending the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival and writing down his experiences.


Space To Be: Cafe  continues in Edinburgh on Thu 19 Oct & 26 Oct.