In the spring of 2021, members of churches in the city of Goodhue went to church leaders expressing concern that families in their city these days are needing to choose between how they spend their Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings more often than usual. Traditionally in Goodhue, Wednesday evenings & Sunday mornings have been set aside for families and faith communities to gather and practice their faith together. It’s been the tradition in Goodhue to not schedule too many events during these days in order to protect that space.
However, overtime, church members and clergy in Goodhue have noticed a change. Increasing opportunities for extracurricular activities, the demands of jobs, and just the general busyness of life has ramped up in such a way that it is becoming harder for families to engage in what local clergy calls “sacred space.” According to Pastor Eric Hanson (St. Luke Lutheran Church, Goodhue) and Father Thomas McCabe (Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Goodhue), “Families need sacred space in their lives to play together, to have down-time together, to practice their faith together, and to simply be together without agenda or scheduled activity.” Such sacred space, according to Pastor Hanson and Father McCabe “Gives youth and families time to experience themselves in non-merit-based settings such as school, sports, or jobs. People need time to be bored, to ask deep questions about who they are, and to not be jumping from one activity to another on a calendar. People need time to simply be together, whether it be in a faith structured environment, or simply at home enjoying each other’s company.”
Pastor Hanson moved to Goodhue from Sammamish, WA (a suburb of Seattle) two and a half years ago and noticed while living in the suburbs of Seattle that losing such sacred space can have detrimental mental health effects on a city. According to Pastor Hanson, “The youth and families in Sammamish had been losing their sacred space for decades. I regularly witnessed families moving from one event to the next event to the next activity to the next job responsibility with no time to breathe in between. The City of Sammamish discovered through a public health assessment that this pace of life was likely contributing to rising mental health problems across the city.”
After hearing similar concerns from Father McCabe and members of Goodhue’s churches, Pastor Hanson, Father McCabe, and a number of community members decided to form the Goodhue Community Health Awareness Coalition. The Coalition’s mission is, “To discover and preserve the balance of family time within the changing seasons of life in order to promote healthy spiritual and mental wellbeing.” The Coalition’s objectives are; 1) to provide opportunities for conversations about the importance of keeping Sunday mornings and Wednesday afternoons/nights free for family, faith, and free time, 2) to affirm the importance of structured time with regard to extracurricular activities, 3) to provide opportunities for the community to support the spiritual and mental health and wellbeing of its youth and families, and 4) to search for and connect youth and families with community mentors and resources to increase their spiritual and mental wellbeing. A past and present school board member, and several parents from the community concurred that we should bring this topic into the public light. The community members worked together to form the above mission statement and thought the objectives would help guide public discussion and concrete actions. Everyone was glad that this topic was being addressed and felt the support of others who could not attend the meetings.
One of the initial projects the Coalition tackled was putting on a Community Mental Health Awareness and Education Forum at Goodhue Public School this past fall. The Coalition partnered with the Goodhue County Mental Health Coalition and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to bring awareness to rising mental health challenges in Goodhue County, inform on spiritual practices that foster positive mental health, and inform on where Goodhue County residents can go for mental health assistance. In the future, the Coalition hopes to increase public awareness on how communities can improve mental well-being among residents by writing monthly articles on the subject in local newspapers. For anyone interested in the Coalition’s work, you may reach out to Pastor Eric Hanson at firstname.lastname@example.org or Father Thomas McCabe at email@example.com.
Looking for mental health resources?
Call or text 988 & you'll be connect with mental health professionals through the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
Suicide Prevention Hotline (English) 1-800-273-8255
Suicide Prevention Hotline (En Espanol) 1-888-628-9454
Crisis Response of Southeast Minnesota
Text: “MN” to 741741
Minnesota Farm & Rural Helpline
Southeast Regional Crisis Center
Goodhue County Resources
Your local school Counselor or School Psychologist
The Mental Health Coalition of Goodhue County resource website: www.gccfc.org