Open Table UCC offers mental health support to GLBTQA of all faiths

Priscilla’s Place meets every Saturday from 1-2:30 pm at the Living Table United Church of Christ. 4001 38th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55406. All faiths and non-faiths welcome.

The GLBTQA (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Allied)  community has witnessed its share of devastation from suicides, with the organization Soul Force reporting that queer-identified youth are three times more likely to commit suicide than their peers. While the National Institute for Mental Health  collects no data on the specifics of GLBT and mental health as a population of study, the data published on suicide statistics states, “Homosexuality has also been shown to be correlated with suicide attempts among youth.” The Institute does not mention collection of data for older GLBT adults.

Last year, the Living Table United Church of Christ (formerly known as Spirit of the Lakes UCC) lost one of its own members to suicide. Kimberia Sherva, a peer counselor for the church’s mental health support group, says that in response to this loss, Pastor James Pennington enlisted the aid of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota (NAMI-MN)  to establish a peer support group at his church. With the help of two volunteer peer counselors, one of them the Pagan-identified Sherva, the group now runs every Saturday from 1-2:30 pm in the church basement.

The group, called “Priscilla’s Place,” has a small core membership, with occasional drop-in attendees. “They talk, we listen, offer support and suggestions, and try and let them know they’re not alone,” says Sherva.

Sherva elaborates on her role in the support group, “As a member of the GLBTQA community myself, and as someone who has a mental illness, I understand where our group members come from. I am going to school to be a therapist one day, and the training I’ve received from NAMI-MN and the ongoing group facilitating I do has been priceless. I am not a therapist for the group. This is a peer run group whose facilitators went through training through NAMI-MN.”

The group supports people of any religious identification. “The Living Table is a welcoming community and it is a non-denominational church. In its services, it often refers to God/Goddess. I have told Reverend [Pennington] that I am more comfortable with the mention of the Goddess and he has put it into his services more. I find that comforting and welcoming. People of all faiths (or even non-faiths) are welcome at the church. [Priscilla’s Place] itself is not based upon any religious credo. The members can range from Christian to Pagan to atheist to agnostic and anything in between. The most important thing is that we are here to support others who are living with a mental illness (or illnesses) and who are GLBTQA,” says Sherva.