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Lilley offers counselling for pastors and church workers

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Sherrie Lynn Lilley is the host of At the Well: Bridging Mental Health & The Gospel at Bethel AME Church on August 19 (Photograph supplied)

People of faith in need of counselling typically turn to their church first.

Sherrie Lynn Lilley is offering pastors, church leaders, lay ministers and church workers her expert help at a special presentation on August 19.

At the Well: Bridging Mental Health & The Gospel will be held under the auspices of her recently launched company, Pneuma Counselling & Consulting.

“This is meant to be a presentation that introduces the programme,” said Ms Lilley, a licensed clinical mental health professional. “The programme has two main functions. One is mental health education and the second is that Pneuma is open to providing mental health support. I want to also provide a safe space for our pastors, our clergy and our leaders when they need decompressing and processing all that they encounter.”

According to Ms Lilley, the business venture intends to have a big impact on the faith community in both Bermuda and New York, where she does consulting work.

“Mental health issues are not exclusive to those who do not know Jesus as Lord and Saviour,” states a description of the event on the company website. “Although Jesus is the answer and the healer of all our woes, our human flesh left to itself has the potential to render us physically, spiritually and emotionally unwell, even the Christian …. This event will grant the insight necessary to integrate faith, the gospel and mental health counselling as well as chart a new path that breaks down stereotypes, decreases stigma and promotes complete healing of body, mind and spirit.”

Sherrie Lynn Lilley is the host of At the Well: Bridging Mental Health & The Gospel at Bethel AME Church on August 19 (Photograph supplied)

Even as a teenager Ms Lilley helped mentor others. She believes her career is actually a calling.

“As a professional [I have worked for] about six years but I always tell people I’ve always been in the mental health field I just didn’t know it. I think people naturally lean towards what they are called to do.

“I’ve been in mentoring and advising positions since I was about 14 years old. I always landed there whether by intention or referral, so to formalise my education ten years ago now, it has been incredible.”

It was important to her that her business reflected her values as well as the values of the mental health profession. It’s how she came to choose the word Pneuma, which means “breath”, “spirit” or “life”.

“The word Pneuma is a Greek word and I actually did take it from the Bible. I wanted something that was a representation of who I am, but at the same time, it didn’t isolate people who may not necessarily share the same faith because as a mental health professional, I serve all.”

Sherrie Lynn Lilley is the host of At the Well: Bridging Mental Health & The Gospel at Bethel AME Church on August 19 (Photograph supplied)

Her door is open to people no matter how they live out their faith, whether it’s through a religious or spiritual experience, Ms Lilley added.

“Spirituality doesn’t necessarily mean faith. I wanted to have something that represented the core of who I am but also invited all to access excellent mental health services.”

Her initial business plan “included traditional types of services – individual, couples, family, and group counselling.” Ms Lilley didn’t expect it to evolve into what it is becoming.

“God put something in my heart specifically for Bermuda based on my observation and experience in my faith community; realising that there were friends and family members that were experiencing their struggles but were very closed to going to traditional counselling. That statistically, persons of faith, especially persons of colour of faith, turn to the church first.”

She prayed about it and then decided to integrate the two.

“[Some counsellors make] it an all-or-nothing type of thing, which I think is a mistake. They don’t know how to integrate faith and in this case, I am talking specifically about the gospel with mental health services. People of faith get turned off because they see it as an all-or-nothing, it's either all counselling or all prayer, and both have their place and I think scripture supports that.”

Once that was sorted Ms Lilley decided it would be better for her to create a safe environment for the mental health conversation to occur.

“Instead of isolating persons of faith and pulling them out and forcing them to consider counselling, why not bring it to where they are and the place where they go first?”

It’s how At The Well “became what it became”.

“I’m like, ‘How do I support pastors? How do I come alongside and find out what they need?’ Some pastors have some counselling experience and education and some do not. It is not to say to a pastor that you don’t know what you are doing. It is meant to say, here is how the scripture talks about and equips us to work with congregants who may be going through various types of situations. To give them the information that they need to be effective in their counselling ministries.”

People who attend should be prepared for “collaboration and conversation”.

“There is going to be an opportunity for whoever shows up to come into smaller groups and begin to talk and have conversations. You are going to realise that there is so much that you share in the work that you do with people.”

At the Well: Bridging Mental Health & The Gospel takes place from 9am until 12pm at Bethel AME Church on August 19. For more information visit www.pneumabermuda.com/

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Published August 12, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated August 14, 2023 at 8:07 am)

Lilley offers counselling for pastors and church workers

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