Widening the Welcome

Last Updated: 6 Aug 2018

When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder over 30 years ago I found myself in a spiritual quandary.  I was raised in the church but at this time I found it difficult to feel like it was a place where I could fit in.  At that time I experienced a considerable amount of shame about my illness.

Things are different now. I am proud to be a part of a movement taking place within my denomination, the United Church of Christ (UCC).  This November we will be holding our 3rd Annual Widening the Welcome Conference in Columbus, Ohio.  Widening the Welcome is an event that is designed to help churches be more welcoming to individuals with disabilities.  There will be a variety of workshops focusing on various disabilities as well as accessibility issues.  I will be participating by offering a workshop entitled, Finding God Through the 12-Steps, as well as leading a morning worship service.

Having attended Widening the Welcome over the past two years, I have seen the good work that churches can do on behalf of those that are marginalized. As a result of the conference I co-founded a support group at my church called Spirit Seekers.  This group is for those living with mental illness as well as for loved ones. 

All major religions have a benevolent component.  In the end we all are part of the human family.  For most of us living with mental illness, we have had to rely on the good will of others to help us in our recovery.  No matter what your faith, we need to learn to take care of each other.  Human kindness is the best medication we could ever receive.

Who have you received spiritual help from in your recovery?

About the author
Karl Shallowhorn is the Education Program Coordinator for the Community Health Center of Buffalo. Karl has been living with bipolar disorder since 1981. He is a New York State Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor and has worked in both the addictions and mental health fields for over 17 years. Karl is the author of Working on Wellness: A Practical Guide to Mental Health. He is a certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor and also works as a mental health consultant for organizations across New York State. Karl has provided a variety of mental health-related seminars and workshops for conferences, schools and businesses on the local, state and national levels. Karl serves on the Board of Directors for the Mental Health Association in New York State, the Mental Health Association of Erie County, the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network, as well as the Erie County Mental Hygiene Community Services Boardand the WNED/WBFO Mental Health Advisory Council. Karl has received numerous awards for his advocacy efforts in his professional career.

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