Opening up for Time To Talk Day with volunteer Cathedral chaplain David Grieve


1 February is Time to Talk Day, an opportunity to encourage those struggling with mental health issues to start a conversation with those they trust about what can often be an isolating state of mind. We talked with David Grieve, a volunteer chaplain at Durham Cathedral who has experienced the depths of depression himself.

David has recently published a book of poetry, ‘Hope in Dark Places’, about confronting mental health issues as a Christian. We spoke to him about his experiences of taking the first steps and opening up about mental health in his role as a volunteer chaplain at Durham Cathedral.

“When I have been in a very dark place, I have sometimes sat with someone I trust for long periods of time without saying anything. At times I wasn’t ready to talk in that moment, but other times I find it easy to talk about my depression fluidly and lucidly, without the need to pretend that I’m not ill.

“There’s great value for me in having the safety in being able to talk, or sit in comfortable silence, with those who know me well or whom I trust, without expectation.

“Churches and Cathedrals today are open and welcoming places to those who come in search of help. It is God’s business to help and comfort. When talking with someone seeking help, it might be appropriate to draw out the meanings in the stories of Jesus. It’s in his example that people searching for help can find assistance, and in his example I learn how to offer the best care I can.

“For people experiencing difficulties, we can offer prayer, a candle, but most importantly listen. Often when I’m helping someone who is experiencing difficulties, I sit with them for a considerable amount of time, and just listen attentively. After they finish speaking they tell me, ‘Thank you for your help.’ It doesn’t appear to me that I’ve actively done much to help, but sometimes that is entirely the point. There is no agenda, no judgement from listeners and chaplains at the Cathedral, who are a friendly ear.

“In my role as a volunteer chaplain I try to act with sensitivity. I offer prayer, without imposing it; I suggest they write a prayer which will be read during a service; I suggest other ways they can seek professional help. Ultimately I bear in mind that in coming to a place like Durham Cathedral they are already seeking help, even if they haven’t fully realised what form they want it to take. Often people want someone to pour out to, and they find the Cathedral is importantly a place of anonymity and safety.

“The Cathedral offers the promise of support and prayer, and simply being available. I tell people that if they need help again there’s always a chaplain or a listener on duty. Giving them the opportunity to return to a safe place is important, but I think it’s also important to see myself as part of the church’s pastoral structure, as part of a massive team in the community that is trained and willing to listen to those in need of talking.

“It’s a great feeling to know that I can be part of a positive process, of relieving a burden and encouraging healing and renewal for those struggling with difficulties.”

Durham Cathedral’s doors are open to everyone, especially those who want to talk to someone about something that is troubling and those who are feeling lonely. Whether you want to share a concern or want someone to pray with, our chaplains and listeners are always ready to greet you with a friendly ear and a reassuring smile. Find more information about them here.

You can find out more about Time To Talk Day, a project lead by Time to Change, here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s