Slow Down, Show Up and Pray
Looking after our mental health has never been so important. Many of us want to find simple ways to help our wellbeing that we can fit into our everyday life. Since lockdown hit, more and more of us have experienced loneliness, anxiousness and a lack of feeling in control.
Into this period of uncertainty comes a timely new book: Slow Down, Show Up & Pray from Baptist pastor Ruth Rice shows how we can model wellbeing - both for our benefit, and for our wider communities. Ruth explains more in this interview
Why did you decide to write Slow Down, Show Up and Pray?
I’m not sure I ever set out to write a book! Over the last few years, I have journaled about all that God has been up to through my own brokenness, and the beautiful generosity of wonderful humans I have met. I realised a year or so ago that the story was not my story. It was bigger than me and needed sharing. I wanted to make sure every church got access to the simple habits that we have found so transformative … and it sort of turned into this book.
Who have you written this book for?
This book is for anyone with a pulse. Anyone who wants to attend to their wellbeing. Anyone who cares about the mental and emotional health issues around them. Any church, anywhere. Anyone human really. The stories in the books will, I hope, encourage any individual reader on their own wellbeing journey. The training in the book will equip any church to start their own wellbeing space.
Why did you choose this title?
Slowing down, showing up, and praying have been the three things that have changed my own story. This is what I’ve had to learn to do when my world fell apart. Simple habits around those three simple actions that can be shared in community are bringing wellbeing to many.
The cover image holds a personal story – can you tell us why this image is so important to you?
The image of a cup held in hands like the picture on the cover is the best definition I have found for wellbeing, for shalom. My life is the cup. The hands are God’s. My habits of wellbeing coming out of a breakdown revolved around sitting quietly with my cuppa and a psalm and knowing I am held. The artwork is based on a photo that was taken by one of our regulars at a renew centre in North Yorkshire. He found great peace and family at the renew centre at a difficult time in his life. He sadly died not long after that picture was taken. It represents the simple fact that all our lives are fragile, but we are held AND like Mark, who took the photo, we are all gifted, masterpieces made by God. We are not just our mental health label.
The book is, in part, the story of the Renew Wellbeing charity. What is different about your charity compared to others working in the same sector?
Renew Wellbeing is such a simple approach. Being present. Being prayerful. Being in partnership. We believe keeping your prayer habits and spaces right up next to your social spaces is key. We also encourage every church to partner with a local council mental health team to help keep the church’s offer simple, safe, and sustainable. Each renew space is different, but all share the same DNA. This is a way of co-producing something better for those who are anxious or isolated in our communities and churches, whilst also attending to our own wellbeing honestly. We love to partner with all the other mental health charities to put our own piece of the puzzle in.
You have a real passion to enable the church to journey together with their local communities to attain mental wellbeing. What would you say to anyone who feels that they are being stirred by this same vision?
I am meeting so many people as the charity spreads across the nation from every denomination who share this vision. God had already placed the seeds for this simple way of showing up in many hearts. If anyone wants to join their heart to see wellbeing renewed in their locality in with ours please, please read the book. Gather a group around you. Get your church leaders on board. Help yourself to our training resources on the website and stay in touch. We would love to see a renew space on every street.
You call this idea of helping each other to attain wellbeing as being the ‘whole gospel’– what do you mean by that?
The slogan 'it’s ok not to be ok' is being used widely in mental health circles. I believe this is the heart of the good news. None of us are ok, and God can bring us into his big story of love and forgiveness. He is the only ok one. He is our hope. Some of us have self-medicated on busyness for too long and when we sit quietly in his presence, we realise he loves us anyway. Always. It cannot be earned.
You have included some testimonies of people who have been touched in some way by being part of the renew spaces. Is there a particular story that stands out for you?
It’s tricky to tell these stories as they aren’t mine to tell. I’m grateful for the few folk who contributed so honestly to the book. But there are many, many stories out there waiting to be heard and told. The one that sticks in my mind though is the lady who told me she loved coming to the renew space because now “someone knows my name”. It transpired that, like many others, she could go all week and never hear her name spoken unless she went to see the doctor. How sad. One of our mottos in Renew is 'names not labels'. Each person needs to be known by name. Each person is known by God.
You write poetry, some of which is included in the book. Why does this help you/ what do you get out of writing in this format?
Sometimes prose feels too definite, too clunky somehow to deal with the tension we live in between joy and sorrow, being grateful yet wanting more, being in a crowd or indeed a church yet being lonely. I find the poetic form enables me to get words out on paper without judging them too much and helps me express things I don’t always understand.
Have you learnt anything new/ been reminded afresh about your own personal journey with God while writing this book?
It has been a delight and a struggle to honestly recall the journey I have been on, and am still on, with mental and emotional wellbeing. A delight to recall how faithful God is and how amazing people can be, and a struggle to stay honest and simple when I would love to be saying something much cleverer!! I have been reminded as I have written down and reflected on the last few years that I need to stick to my own simple habits , that God is enough for me, but that there is such beauty in a community of wellbeing, of shared simple habits. I have been overwhelmed by the beauty of the bride of Christ and his infinite love for her.
What one bit of key advice would you give to someone who wants to start looking after their mental health but doesn’t know where to start?
Start by stopping. Sit still. Breathe. Know there is a God and it isn’t you. Pick one habit for one minute a day - perhaps meditate on a phrase from a psalm and stick with it for a week or two. Find a couple of other folks if you can to do the same habit, prayer or hobby and encourage each other. Forgive yourself when you forget. Be kind to yourself. Start each day fresh.
What do you hope readers will most get out of reading this book?
I hope all readers will leave this book knowing that they are loved just as they are, that God could not love them any more than he already does, and that he will never love them any less. And maybe also find habits to share simply. My big dream would be that this book helps all to engage in seeing a wave of wellbeing sweep through our communities with the local church at the heart of it.
In one sentence, how would you describe Slow Down, Show Up and Pray?
This book is my story, our story, and it could be your story, of God renewing hope and wellbeing through our brokenness and honesty.
Is there anything we can pray for you/ the Renew Wellbeing charity?
Pray that every one of the 50200 churches in the UK and maybe beyond take their place at the well-being table and slow down, show up and pray. Pray that together we learn to make prayer and needs of the most anxious and isolated our priority. Pray for a tsunami of peace and hope.
Slow Down, Show Up & Pray
Published by: Authentic Media - January 2021
ISBN: 978 17889 3183 0
The book is also being included in The Big Church Read.
Ruth Rice is Director of Renew Wellbeing, a charity which runs simple café style spaces attached to a quiet room where inner habits of wellbeing are shared. Ruth longs for every church to find ways to bring God’s peace onto the high street and open spaces for all to attend to their wellbeing.