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Black Church News in Virginia

Local Church Fights The Winter Blahs

It’s not just you – others feel tired, anxious or moody during the winter season, but they take control of their minds like congregants at Wesley Union African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

While experts say Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, affects an estimated 10 million Americans, and another 10 percent to 20 percent may have mild SAD, congregants at Wesley Union AMEZ near downtown Norfolk sidestep SAD symptoms by staying connected. Specifically, the congregants pick up their phone, dial in to Conference, and participate in Bible Study classes or early morning prayer calls several times a week.

“I can’t remember how long we’ve been doing it,” said the Rev. Willmers Williams who has pastored Norfolk’s historic Wesley Union AMEZ for six years. “My congregation tells me they look forward to this time of coming together. One gentleman in our church told me that from the time he leaves our Sunday worship service he does not have contact with too many people until he comes back to church on Sunday. So his connection to the faith community is important.”

Wesley Union AMEZ connects parishioners on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday through early morning prayer and Bible study sessions, which include scriptures, meditations, music, and heartfelt conversations. Oh yea, people also talk to each other and swap insights during the weekly phone sessions.

“We use scripture in all of our sessions,” Williams said. “One person is responsible for making sure all of these sessions happen even if I am not there or out of town. Whether I am on the line or not – if I am traveling we have someone who makes sure this happens.”

The group also talks about timely events such as the California couple recently charged with torture, abuse and other crimes. The California parents, David Turpin, 57, and Louise Turpin, 49, are accused of abusing their 13 children. The parents face 12 counts of torture, seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult, six counts of child abuse or neglect and 12 counts of false imprisonment, according to news reports.

“On the phone we prayed for that family,” Williams said, explaining that the number of parishioners who participate in each daily session can range from two to ten people. “As I said, my congregation tells me they look forward to this time of coming together. We pray about all kinds of situations including those that we see online.Focusing on others makes us more aware. They tell me the calls connect them, draw them closer together, and create unity.”

Experts say talk therapy defeats seasonal affective disorder (SAD) because talking to others makes you notice your own thought and behavior patterns. Specifically, talking to other helps you deal with your own winter lows. Whether you feel cold, dark, and nasty like the sometimes frigid weather outside your window, or you think it’s normal to feel tired, anxious and moody – connecting to others will stop the winter blahs.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, SAD is a type of depression. The symptoms include feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day. Or you feel hopeless and worthless. You have low energy, lose interest in activities you once enjoyed, and have trouble sleeping. You may overeat and gain weight. You feel sluggish or agitated. You can’t concentrate for long.

Williams listened to the list of symptoms and pointed to Bible passages that urge believers to be of good cheer. For example, in John 16:3, Jesus said, “Be be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Or consider Luke 10:17 – “The seventy (disciples) returned with joy saying, ‘Even the demons are subject to us in your name.’”

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I Kings 10:8 says, “Happy are your men and happy are your servants, who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom.”

Williams said, “The No. 1 thing you want to do when the winter blues come is to think, ‘This too shall pass.’ I believe you have to stay focused on the Word of God. This does not mean you should stay on your knees all of the time. but it does mean you should stay in an attitude of prayer. I mean, communicate with God. The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing.”

By Rosaland Tyler
Associate Editor
New Journal and Guide

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