Community Missions Inc. and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, a pair of prominent mental health service providers, will join together to host the seventh annual Interfaith Community Prayer Service at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 3.
The event will take place at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 822 Cleveland Ave., Niagara Falls. It is part of Mental Illness Awareness Week, a national event designed to raise public awareness about mental illness and break down the stigma that too often discourages people from seeking help when needed.
Event organizers said area leaders from various faith traditions will join mental health consumers, including those who participate in programs provided by Community Missions, their families and community members, to seek guidance and help in replacing misinformation, blame, fear and prejudice with truth and life in order to offer hope to those touched by mental illness.
New York State Sen. Robert Ortt and Assemblyman Angelo Morinello, and a representative of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, are expected to speak at the prayer service, along with the following:
•Dr. Mohamed S. Ahmed, M.D., Ph.D., P.C., of Masjid Tawba of Niagara Falls will offer prayers from the Muslim tradition. Ahmed is also medical director at Roswell Park Hematology-Oncology of Niagara
•The Rev. Raymond Allen of Bethany Missionary Baptist Church, president of the Niagara Falls Ministerial Council
•Rabbi Ellen Franke of Temple Beth El in Niagara Falls
•Pete Hill, community and cultural services director of the Native American Community Services of Erie; "All Our Relations" project director at Native American Community Services of Erie and Niagara Counties Inc. (NACS)
•The Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., president emeritus, Niagara University
•Judy Maggs from St. James United Methodist Church, Niagara Falls (service music)
•The Rev. Marna Pritchard, pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ
•Jonathan Sandberg from Calvary Episcopal Church, Williamsville (soloist)
•Joyce Sconiers from Niagara Falls Memorial Wellness Center, God's Woman Vanessa Scott Outreach Ministries Sounds of Praise.
"This annual prayer service sets aside a moment to stop and reflect on both the misunderstanding that surrounds mental illness and embrace the reality that recovery is possible," said the Rev. Mark Breese, agency minister at Community Missions. "It is essential that, as a community, we stand with our neighbors who struggle with mental illness, as valued members of our community."
Memorial Medical Center President and CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo said, "This interfaith gathering presents a welcome opportunity for the entire community to join in support of neighbors, friends and family members who too often are misunderstood and unfairly stigmatized, because they suffer from anxiety, depression or other forms of mental illness."
One in five adults experience mental illness problems every year, and 50 percent of chronic mental illness begins by age 14. Although many people today understand that mental illness is a medical condition, individuals and families affected by mental illness are still often subjected to stigma and discrimination.
This year's service will also feature, for the first time, a serenity fountain constructed by participants in Community Missions' Personalized Recovery Oriented Services (PROS) program.
"We wanted to have as many people as possible participate in presenting the service," Breese said. "This was a fun way for that to happen, and the fountain will help set a peace-filled tone in the sanctuary."
The service is open to the public, with light refreshments to follow. For more information, contact Mark Breese at 716-285-3403, ext. 2259, or [email protected]