Last Friday I attended The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church at Saddleback Church. The all-day conference was a joint effort of Pastor Rick and Kay Warren of Saddleback Church, Bishop Kevin Vann of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, and NAMI-OC (National Alliance on Mental Illness-Orange County), as well as other faith and community leaders.

At the beginning of the day, I felt that I was in the perfect place, but as the day progressed, I grew weary, as well as leery. Weary, because it was a very long day with much to take in, much even for me who has lived it, practiced it, and studied it. Not only am I a mental health survivor, but I am a former mental health provider. Not only am I a child of God, but I have attended seminary. Furthermore, the content of my work in seminary, much of my writing, in particular my paper on Mental Health Ministry, dealt with this conference’s focus.

Yet I pull back from organizational structure, from brick and mortar churches, from groups in general. I fear a loss of self, an inability to preserve my identity, to take care of myself. I fear becoming engulfed and subsuming my own needs and separateness from the needs of the whole. I fear drowning.

Perhaps I overstate my fear. Perhaps it is unfounded. Perhaps I am perfectly capable of working within an organizational structure.

Then again, perhaps that is not where I belong. Perhaps I work better as an outsider, as a member of smaller, more casual, groups. I shy away from “like-mindedness.” I embrace difference, tolerance, variety.