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Where our prayers are answered when it comes to health

A new study has revealed that going to church is good for your wellbeing. Three women here — two Christians and a Hindu — talk to Karen Ireland about the importance of their faith in their lives.

Chloe Hemphill lives in Ballymoney with her husband Paul and their daughters Rosabelle (7) and Ariella (3). A former youth worker, she is now a stay at home mum. She says:

My dad was a minister, so I have been around the church all my life. But my church-going experiences have been mixed.

Despite this, I believe the right church is good for your soul, your health and your overall wellbeing.

As a family we moved to Ballymoney six years ago, where we joined the Church of Ireland, in the united parishes of Finvoy, Rasharkin and Ballymoney.

Since then we have had a real sense of belonging here and have become part of the church family.

It is about so much more than just going to worship on a Sunday morning; with this church it is about being involved in and helping the community.

I could be busy with church activities every day of the week.

As a leader in Sunday club, I work with teenagers and attend parent and toddler events during the week.

Last week in Sunday club, one of the young girls came in and she was distraught as she had been with Reece Meenan, the young teenager who died in Coleraine in a car accident. She had been with him that night.

The group talked with her and we prayed.

Afterwards her mum thanked us and said she wasn’t going to go (to the club) that day but had got so much love and support out of it she was feeling stronger and really glad she came.

My daughter Rosabelle has a genetic heart condition and at times she can be very unwell, and she can have up to three hospital appointments a week.

The church family have really supported us through some very difficult times.

They are there to pray and offer pastoral care, but they also offer practical help, too.

Even the doctors say Rosabelle is a miracle child — which I put down to the support of the church family.

For me that is what church should be about — what goes on everyday outside the building and in the community.

The church is not the building but the people in it, and that is what our minister Andrew Sweeney imparts.

A few years ago my husband Paul was made redundant with one week’s notice.

Things were really tight financially and the church family rallied around us to help out in practical ways.

I came home one night and there were two bags of coal sitting on the doorstep. Small things like that mean so much.

They also gave the girls gifts and presents, which meant they weren’t missing out.

I don’t know what I would do without the church family, especially when things are difficult — for example, when Rosabelle is ill. They surround us all in prayer and keep our spirits lifted when times are tough.

Our church is about being part of a community.

One day I went to a lunch and I didn’t know anyone there, and an older lady from the church gestured to me and said ‘never sit on your own, you can always sit with me’. It is intergenerational.

Both myself and the girls have made life-long friendships thanks to the church.

I am an older mum and it took us a while to get pregnant, so my faith was important during that time, too.”

Jenni Spice (48), lives in Dromore with her husband Chris, who is retired, and their two children, Caitlin (16) and Oliver (13). She owns The Good Room gift shop in the town. She says: 

For a long time, I didn’t go to church, as I had been let down and disappointed by previous churches. It took me a while to find a church where I felt comfortable and that I belonged to — but I found that in Redeemer Central in Belfast (the church follows the principle of The Apostles Creed and The Nicene Creed, which are summations of the faith handed down from the earliest Christian communities).

I was invited along to an event in the church with my book club and I just liked the vibe so much, I thought I would go along one Sunday — and I loved it.

There is a real sense of community at the church — which is a true expression of God’s love.

People are welcomed from all different backgrounds and stages of life. Everyone had a story and a past, which appeals to me.

I am not typically religious; I just have a faith and realise that I have had a strong belief all my life.

As people, we are all wired for connection and we enjoy being with other people.

I found somewhere that I fit in and could make new friends.

And it has certainly benefited my health.

Whatever issues I have had, the church family has been there for me with love and support.

When I struggled with depression, they were there for me and their prayers were so uplifting. It didn’t make me feel weak or incomplete. Life is up and down but there is always someone from the church there for you — you are never alone.

Previously, I had a lot of anger towards churches, but that was all about someone’s interpretation of religion — not God’s love, which is just a humble and straightforward way to be.

I realised I could be angry at church but not at God.

Now the church offers a time of calm in a frantic world. It is a place to go to feel grounded.

One of my friends from church says: ‘No matter what I know; all I know is I am His and He is mine.’

It’s as simple as that and as simple as we want it to be. Now, I just try to reflect God’s love in my everyday life and I have found a sense of healing from the church community.

It should be where the broken go to find peace among like-minded people.

Sometimes, I just go and sit at the back and have a cup of tea, and just be there. I’m not actually taking part and that is enough for me.

Now I feel like I am learning and growing all the time. I have a sense of peace and contentment.

I go to church on my own at the minute, as I wouldn’t force it on my husband or children. It is something they have to find out for themselves.”

Anusha Ramessur (30), a biology tutor, lives in Belfast with her husband Aleksandrs Turs. They are expecting their first baby in January. She says:

My husband and I have been going to the Hare Krishna Temple in Dunmurry for the last six years. We are very involved in the church and go along every Sunday to the morning programme.

There is something very calming and soothing about going to the temple and it brings me a real sense of peace.

I am from Mauritius and came over to Birmingham to study and then met Aleksandrs, who is from Latvia. Then we moved over to Belfast for work.

We got married in Belfast City Hall in 2013 and then went back to Mauritius where my family had planned a full-blown Hindu wedding which was beautiful and a wonderful experience.

The spiritual side of the marriage was very important to both of us.

Going to the temple brings a calmness to live among the stresses and busyness of everyday life.

We meditate together and have a spiritual meditation mantra which is very soothing. I always feel happy when I am in the temple.

There is a strong sense of well-being attached to going to the temple. And the spiritual teachers, who are self-realised souls, often visit to offer guidance and impart spiritual knowledge.

They are there to answer questions we have about life, death and God. These are things you couldn’t gain from reading books or studying at university.

We also have a strong social circle of people we met at the temple — they are like-minded people who we socialise with.

This sense of belonging is really important especially as our families are so far away. It gives me a sense of ease about the baby coming as I know I will be supported.

People rally round and help each other and there is always someone there for you.

We connect with God in the temple and connect into a real reservoir of happiness. You can’t get that from anywhere else.

Going to the temple definitely makes me feel better, stronger and more complete.”

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