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Community Mental Health: The Role of Church and Temple by Howard J. Clinebell, Jr., (Ed.)

Howard J. Clinebell, Jr., is retired professor of Pastoral Counseling, School of Theology at Claremont, California. Published by Abingdon Press, New York, Nashville, 1970. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.

The growing network of community mental health services is bringing hope and help to tens of thousands of persons in many parts of our country. The existence of these excellent new resources raises important questions for churches and temples: How should the community pastor, priest, or rabbi relate to the mental health services and programs in his area? What qualifications should be possessed by clergy staff members of community mental health centers? What clinical and academic training should they have? What should be their functions? (This was discussed in a preliminary way in Chapter One.) How should they relate to other staff members and to the religious organizations of the community? How can the churchesí laymen cooperate with and support community mental health services? In what ways can these services enhance the effectiveness of the churches with the people they serve?

The chapters in this section throw helpful light on these questions. Each statement is written by a person who has had firsthand experience related to community mental health programs. Two of the authors (Moyer and Beebe) report on their experiences as clergy staff members in mental health programs. The chapter on qualifications of staff members is written from the perspective of a clergyman (Kempson) employed by a state mental health department which makes extensive use of clergymen in its regional programs. This section includes a revealing report (Hathorne) of a study of the patterns of clergy involvement in community mental health services. The final chapter in this section (by Clements) stresses the importance of local control of community mental health centers.

Two important convictions underlie the discussion in this section. First, no comprehensive community mental health service can be really comprehensive unless it succeeds in involving the religious organizations and leaders of its community. And second, to accomplish the effective utilization of the mental health potentialities of churches, a mental health service must have a well-trained clergyman on its staff. Only such a bilingual person -- that is, a person who can communicate across disciplines because he can speak both the language of the ministry and religion, on the one hand, and the language of mental health on the other -- can build the necessary communication bridges between the churches and the mental health services. Such bridges allow cooperation to occur. To help acquaint mental health leaders and legislators with these two facts is one of the functions of religious leaders who are informed about community mental health.

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