One year ago, at the Annual Meeting of our Congregation, we voted unanimously to become a WISE (Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, and Engaged for Mental Health) congregation of the United Church of Christ. Over this past year we have joyfully, thoughtfully, and intentionally worked at opening the doors of the church even wider by our commitment to extravagant hospitality as a WISE Congregation. It has been our goal to help reduce the stigma and to promote the inclusion of people with mental illnesses/brain disorders/emotional challenges and their families in the life, leadership, and work of the church.

Our theme this year is “Empathy” and much of the programming we are doing is around the challenges of what to do when we have troubles finding the “right” words to say, or to understand how someone thinks so differently from us, or to comprehend experiences beyond our own. We are hoping that each member and friend of the church will participate in at least one program.


Join us after worship one Sunday each month as we immerse ourselves, train for, and develop skills in being empathetic. Outstanding professionals will lead us, a light lunch will be provided, and childcare is available.

Sunday, January 20 – Empathy 101 at 12: 15 p.m. in Havighorst Lounge

A Native American proverb says, “Never criticize someone until you’ve walked a mile in their moccasins.” Empathy is, at its simplest, awareness of the feelings and emotions of other people. It is a key element in emotional intelligence. Kick-off our Empathy Bootcamp with this primer on developing the ability to help or understand others based on their needs, experiences, and thinking.
Leading us will be Dr. Michael McCullough, Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Miami. Dr. McCullough is an experimental psychologist who is concerned primarily with the evolutionary and cognitive underpinnings of human sociality. He was one of the first scientists to take an interest in interpersonal forgiveness and to develop tools for studying it experimentally. He is the author of several books including, Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of Forgiveness Instinct and The Psychology of Gratitude.

Sunday, February 17 – Empathy Across the Boundaries of What Divides Us at 12:15 p.m. in Havighorst Lounge

Recognizing and sharing someone else’s emotional state is a complex inner experience. It calls on self-awareness, the ability to distinguish between your own feelings and those of others, the skill to take another’s perspective, and the ability to recognize emotions in others as well as oneself. Whether its political, cultural, religious, or racial boundaries, come learn how to reach across the aisle with empathy and understanding. Led by Dr. Edith Guffey, Conference Minister for the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference of the United Church of Christ.

Empathy Heart

Sunday, March 17 – Being Empathetic When There Are No Words at 12:15 p.m. in Havighorst Lounge

C.S. Lewis in his memoir “A Grief Observed,” writes about the loss of his wife to cancer, “I see people as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether to say something about it or not. I hate if they do, and if they don’t.” There is no silver bullet when it comes to being there for someone in their darkest hour. It’s important though to try and not make things worse. Come learn how to not make your defenses offensive!

Sunday, April 28 – Finding the Heart of Empathy through Forgiveness at 12:15 p.m. in Havighorst Lounge

Forgiveness is the most precious but challenging gift a person can give to another. We struggle with forgiveness because we are in pain, we are angry that someone caused that pain, we want them to hurt as much as we do especially when we believe they don’t get it.  Using empathy as a tool, is it possible to forgive and to move on? Come learn how.

Sunday, May 19 – The Zen of Empathy at 12:15 p.m. in Havighorst Lounge

Fine-tuning your gut and your intuition goes a long way in being empathetic to others. So does just showing up when the need arrives. Let’s discover what we’ve learned and how to put it into practice.

Wednesday Evening Book Study

There is No Good Card for This:
What to Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love
Wednesdays, January 16, 23, 30
6:30 p.m. – 7:15 p.m. in the Library

Dr. Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell have written a practical, interesting, and frankly fun guide for caring when it really matters. We will spend three Wednesday evenings reflecting on the chapters which include: Laying Some Groundwork (January 16); The Three Touchstones of Showing Up (January 23); and Just Help Me Not Be A Disaster (January 30).

The book will be for sale after worship throughout December (makes a great Christmas gift) for $15 (normally $25.99). We encourage you to buy it as it has ongoing helps and insights for growing more compassionate, insightful, and empathetic.

Thursdays, January 3, and February 7 from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. in the Music Room
Tuesdays, December 18, January 15, February 19 from 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. in the Chapel

Stress and anxiety can cause physical, mental and spiritual problems. This group is formed to help members learn skills in reducing anxiety while increasing positive thinking, feeling, and behaviors. Based on techniques of mindfulness, cognitive behavioral skills, meditation, relaxation, and guided imagery, members can experience increased physical, mental and spiritual health.

Saturdays, January 5, February 2 at 2:00 p.m. in the Library
Led by Pat Berman, M.S., Family Therapy

Grief is a powerful emotion and can stop us in our tracks. It can also break our hearts enough to make us feel that we will never again be whole. Whether you are newly bereaved or still struggling with painful feelings that occurred years ago, join us in a safe place, led by a professional marriage and family therapist with over 40 years of experience to find mutual support.


Have you been struggling with depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties, or other psychological stresses? If so, you may be eligible to participate in a free culturally informed, religiously-based group therapy as part of a research study aimed at improving treatment for these conditions. Pastor Laurie is helping to provide leadership with this study along with Dr. Amy Weisman, Ph.D.; Associate Professor/Fellow, Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, Department of Psychology at the University of Miami. During the treatment, clinicians will provide education on mental health, as well as techniques to assist in coping with psychological stress.

All sessions take place at Gables UCC and are free. If you are interested, please call 305.284.5455 to set up your baseline interview.