Did Jesus invent the ‘new normal’?

By Rev Fiona Bennett (From Seeds May 2021)

The theme of this year’s Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival is ‘Normality?’.

The festival is running 3-23 May with a mainly online program, but also including a few live outdoor exhibitions (in Renfrewshire). You can find out more at www.mhfestival.com.

The theme was inspired by many lockdown conversations about ‘getting back to normal’ or ‘creating a new normal’. It raises questions about what we perceive as normal. And whether much of what was assumed in pre-lockdown as ‘normal’ was – for people who live with anxiety, illness or disability – often damaging to mental health. Is it possible to shape a new normal in our society that is inclusive and enabling for all?

The festival includes the dates of Mental Health Awareness Week Scotland, which is 10-16 May. This year the theme is ‘Nature and the Environment’, which has been shown to be a huge factor and tool for supporting our mental health throughout lockdown. (www. mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/ mental-health-awareness-week ) (See p.5.)

The experience of lockdown and losses brought about by the pandemic have certainly raised everyone’s awareness that our mental health requires as much attention and care as our physical health. This would not have been a new idea to Jesus, for all of his healing stories are about more than physical events; they involve people being restored to themselves and to their communities.

Was Jesus trying to shape a new normal in the world in which he lived, one that was inclusive and enabling for all?

I hope the opportunities to learn and connect this May through all these Mental Health events can inspire us to treasure and care for the gift of our mental health, and consider how we can shape a new normal world which creates space and support for all.