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         Mental Illness
                    & Spirituality

‘Out of the depths


This website is funded

and developed by the Wood Family

in loving memory of

Mrs June Wood

Vale June Wood Details

One of the founding members of

A Nouwen Network.

A Nouwen Network is a ‘grassroots’ nonprofit outreach and receives no financial support from any organization. All activities are entirely voluntary.

The material presented is assembled in good faith. Links to other websites are inserted for convenience

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Coffee

Gatherings

Mental Health has been defined as ‘the emotional and spiritual resilience that enables us to enjoy life and survive pain, disappointment and sadness. It is a positive sense of well-being and an underlying belief in our own and other’s self-worth.’ (Health Education Authority, Scotland). The presence of a mental illness does not mean that a person cannot enjoy ‘flourishing’ mental health. Similarly a person does not have to have a mental illness to have low mental health. Our coffee gatherings are health focused rather than illness focused. We are not a ‘support group’ in the usual sense, we do not engage as ‘consumers’, ‘carers’, ‘support workers’ or ‘clients’. Anybody is welcome.

We gather as friends and neighbours to create opportunities for positive experiences of connecting and interacting with people.  We meet in a coffee shop and create a safe place – a place of celebration, and a place where truth can be spoken. We share our stories and our interests. We have lots of laughs together, and we also share our pain and uncertainty. Henri Nouwen’s words capture what happens very well: ‘Gathered together in common vulnerability, we discover how much we have to give each other’. When we gather around the table there are always many gifts in evidence. These gifts and creative talents are there alongside simple gratitude, and humbling examples of the deep faith and the generosity of spirit that can be the fruits of great suffering.

At these coffee gatherings our faith is an important gift that is shared. It is ‘shared’ not because it is always spoken about, but because it forms the very fabric of the ‘safe space’ of friendship that we offer. Our gift to those present is that ‘faith’, ‘spirituality’, ‘God’ and ‘church’ can be spoken about. There is a community of listeners at the table who are ready to respectfully receive the gift of a person sharing their sacred stories. They are also ready to sit with their silence.

It is rarely a matter of a person sharing what is to them one story. Mental illness, like other illnesses and traumas, interrupts the story that a person thinks they are living. They find themselves within the chaos of a new, frightening, and disorientating story. They, and those around them, can then focus so much on the story of the illness that it takes real effort to reclaim a story that feels inclusive of the whole person. Mental illness strips so much away. Those who are seriously or repeatedly ill incur many losses. These losses frequently include a sense of self-worth and of hope.

The gift we offer is a safe space where a person can tentatively explore weaving the threads of their sacred stories together into a life-affirming story that honours the whole person. The stories of their faith journey before mental illness; the stories of their sense of God being present and God being absent within the times of illness; the stories of their experiences within family and church and the wider community, the stories of their losses and the stories of their resilience. All of the stories are very precious, as are the silences (for some stories are not told in words). We sit and listen to each other as friends and neighbours who share a belief in a God who loves each of us unconditionally. We care about each other, and about the people we haven’t met who are feeling alone.


All A Nouwen Network gatherings are held from 12:30pm – 2:30pm. The gatherings are held on different days of the week in the various locations. Those members who commit to being the local host group choose the day. Some gatherings are set down for very regular intervals others are not. 

At all our gatherings some people come and order a midday meal, and others choose to drop in for a while just for a coffee and chat. Feel free to do what suits you. Perhaps you could bring somebody along with you? Please invite anybody you think might like to connect with A Nouwen Network. We are not a ‘club’. We have ‘regulars’, but we meet wonderful new friends and neighbours all the time!

At present all our gatherings are in Brisbane. We have had regular enquiries from people in country areas of QLD, and from interstate, asking if there is a gathering near them. We wish we could say ‘yes’. Our ‘friendship & coffee catch-up’ model is very simple, and it has been running for several years now. We would really love to hear from others who are interested in finding out more about hosting similar gatherings in their local area.  Please contact us at : info@nouwen-network.com


Dates and Venues