Sanctuary Ambassadors

Dr. Hillary McBride, PhD; Contributor on the Liturgists podcast; Sanctuary Ambassador

Hillary is a registered clinical counsellor in private practice in Vancouver and has her PhD in Counselling Psychology from UBC. Her areas of clinical and research specialty focus on trauma, and trauma therapies, eating disorders, body image, sex and sexuality, embodiment, and the intersection of spirituality and mental health. Hillary's work has been recognized by both the American and Canadian Psychological Associations, and she was awarded the International Young Investigator Award for her research contributions so early in her career. Her first book is "Mothers, Daughters, and Body Image: Learning to Love Ourselves as We Are" (Post Hill Press, 2017), and she is the editor of a textbook, Embodiment and Eating Disorders: Theory, Research, Prevention and Treatment (Routledge, 2018).

Hillary says:

I believe the mission of the church is to be the hands and feet of a loving God who longs for people to feel seen, known, cared for, and not alone. Although this includes those who are healthy, it also includes those who are suffering, struggling, hurting, and in pain, perhaps especially so. For too long, churches have been ill-equipped for this mission, particularly as it comes to people who struggle with mental health. I have a deep resonance with the work of Sanctuary because it is equipping the church to be what it was been meant to be all along - a place for healing and hope for all of us.

Rev. Dr. Isabelle Hamley, PhD; Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Palace; Visiting Fellow, King’s College, London; Prebendary, Stall of Broomesbury, St. Paul’s Cathedral

Isabelle is an Anglican priest, currently working directly with the Archbishop of Canterbury. She has previously held posts as a parish priest, university chaplain, and lecturer in biblical studies. Before ordination, she worked as a university lecturer and as a probation officer, combining her two passions—theology and working with people who struggle with life. She’s passionate about the Old Testament because it speaks into the messiness of life with both hope and realism, and for its relentless focus on justice. She is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4, and writes and speaks regularly on matters of public theology. She is married to Paul, an environmental scientist, and they have a teenage daughter who is easily the best theologian in the family. Her latest book, edited in collaboration with Chris Cook, explores what resources the Bible offers to talk about mental health.

Isabelle says:

In a world where we are increasingly connected with one another, it often seems that we are also ever more alone, and every day in ministry I meet people who struggle just to take the next step into the day. Listening to stories of mental health challenges is a daily aspect of Christian life and ministry, yet so often churches feel disempowered and lacking skills. So when I heard about Sanctuary, as I was planning a conference on Christianity and mental health, I got really excited! The Sanctuary Course is such a brilliant, user-friendly, accessible resource; it can contribute to the life of any church that seeks to engage more deeply with the life of its members and those they love, meet, and reach out to.

Rev. Dr. John Swinton, PhD; Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies, University of Aberdeen; Sanctuary Ambassador

John is the Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies at the School of Divinity, History, and Philosophy, University of Aberdeen, Scotland. He worked for sixteen years as a registered mental health nurse, and spent several years as a hospital and community mental health chaplain. He is particularly interested in mental health issues as they relate to the spiritual dimensions of care offered by religious communities and as the spiritual care offered by established “secular” mental health services. He has published in the fields of disability theology, spirituality and health, and qualitative research and mental health. He is founder of the Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability, where academics, researchers, practitioners, and educators collaborate on innovative projects researching the theology of disability and the relationship between spirituality, health and healing, and contemporary healthcare practices. John is an ordained minister of Church of Scotland.

John says:

The psalmist informs us that God comes to bind the wounds of the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3). There is a tremendous beauty in such a vision. The Church that forms itself around the resurrected Jesus is called to mirror God’s ministry of binding wounds and to become a place where the brokenhearted in all of their different forms, can find acceptance, love and belonging. Sanctuary Ministries reminds us of what such binding and healing actually looks like. The resources that Sanctuary offers are designed to enable Christ-like responses from the Church and to guide all of us, together, to fresh places of healing and community. It is a pleasure and an honour to be part of their ministry.

Advisory Panel

Dr. Fiona Choi, PhD; Research Associate, Institute of Mental Health, Department of Psychiatry, The University of British Columbia

Fiona Choi is a Research Associate in the Addictions and Concurrent Disorders Research Group in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia. Fiona received her PhD in Neuroscience with a focus on preclinical models of addiction. Following her graduate work, she applied her behavioral pharmacology training to clinical research in mental health and addictions. She held the HSBC Fellowship in Addiction Research exploring factors associated with substance use disorders, trauma and related psychopathology and also a MITACS Accelerate Fellowship to explore web-based mobile mental health solutions in an acute care setting. Fiona has been working on the development of an integrated mental health web platform for vulnerable youth, utilizing e-health tools to strengthen mental wellbeing. She is also interested in alternative treatment options for opiate detoxification and withdrawal management to improve retention and treatment satisfaction amidst the current opiate overdose crisis.

Fiona says:

My involvement with Sanctuary began in 2012 as a volunteer, followed by joining their pilot Community Mental Health Coach training program to support spiritual communities in providing care towards healing transformation. The journey through mental illness is a personal experience but I believe it does not need to be journeyed in isolation. Sanctuary Ministries instills hope through an emphasis on God’s mercy, the Spirit’s presence, Christ entering into our present suffering, and the comfort of community. I feel abundantly blessed by the opportunity to participate in their ministry. "But the Lord said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Corinthians 12:9 I firmly believe that a spiritual community can provide much-needed mental health support, open avenues of communication, and help remove barriers that prevent potentially healing relationships from developing. My motivation for working with Sanctuary is driven by a desire to see communities work together towards healing transformation, beginning with the church and parish family, and eventually extending beyond that—possibly stirring waves outside the walls and into the larger community.

Rev. Dr. Christopher C.H. Cook, PhD; MD; MA; MB; BSc; BS; FRCPsych; Professor of Spirituality, Theology and Health, Durham University

Professor Christopher Cook qualified in medicine from St. George’s Hospital Medical School, London in 1981. He specialized in Psychiatry, and from 1997 to 2003 he was Professor of the Psychiatry of Alcohol Misuse at the University of Kent. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 2001. He has research doctorates in psychiatry and theology. Chris is now Professor of Spirituality, Theology and Health in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University, and Director of the Durham University Centre for Spirituality, Theology, and Health. He was President of the British Association for the Study of Spirituality from 2014-2018. His book publications include: Christians Hearing Voices (2020), Hearing Voices, Demonic and Divine (2018) and The Philokalia and the Inner Life: On Passions and Prayer (2011). In 2020, he was awarded the Canterbury Cross by the Archbishop of Canterbury for his work on interdisciplinary issues between theology and psychiatry.

Chris says:

Mental and spiritual wellbeing are intimately interconnected. The Christian gospel is good news for all people in every aspect of life, and the Church has an important part to play in promoting wellbeing in body, mind, and spirit. The Sanctuary Course offers an integrative approach that combines theological, psychological, and social perspectives on mental health and I have been pleased to contribute to it and to act as a consultant and advisor for Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries. I endorse the course warmly for all Christians as a means to better understanding how we may promote mental health within our churches.

Dr. Ruth Lawson-McConnell, PhD; MA Psychology; Director of Trinity Initiatives Counselling and Consulting, Ltd.

Ruth is a sought-after counsellor with twenty-five years of experience counselling adults, children, adolescents, and families. Ruth completed her MA Psychology (Honours) at Aberdeen University, followed by a PhD in Counselling Psychology at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland. She worked as a children’s counsellor and Family Counsellor in Aberdeen before moving to Vancouver, working in private practice and training with Dr. Gordon Neufeld in attachment-based developmental approach, becoming a Professional Associate of the Neufeld Institute. She worked in New Zealand as a Senior Lecturer in Counselling, trained in Neuropsychotherapy and became a Partners of Sexual Addicts Trauma Specialist. She considers herself a global citizen, holding four nationalities, and is bilingual in English and Portuguese, having been born and raised in the Amazon region of Brazil where her Scottish parents were missionaries for thirty-six years. Ruth lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Ruth says:

The vision that Sanctuary has of educating the church around the delicate topic of mental wellbeing is an important one in order to de-stigmatize mental illness, and enable the church to be a vessel of compassion for the flourishing of shalom in our world. I am happy to endorse and review the resources that Sanctuary offers so that holistic flourishing can be seen in, and flowing from, the church. I believe at the heart of the Trinity lies a deep passion “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the oppressed captives, to set prisoners free, to comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:1-2). In joining with Sanctuary, I feel privileged to join with the Trinity on this grand mission of recovering humanity to its most beautiful manifestation of the heart of God: shalom in every realm, starting with our hearts and minds.

Jim McManus, FFPH; CPsychol; CSci; FBPsS; Chartered FCIPD; Chair, Behavioural Sciences and Public Health Network; Director of Public Health, Hertfordshire County Council; Visiting Professor, University of Hertfordshire

Jim McManus is the Director of Public Health at Hertfordshire County Council with a portfolio including drug and alcohol treatment and care, health protection, and health improvement services. Jim is President of the Guild of Health and St. Raphael, an ecumenical charity which brings scientists, theologians, and pastors together to work on health and healing. He is a trustee of St. Joseph’s in Hackney, one of the oldest and largest hospices in the UK. He has worked on projects with the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health. He is Vice President of the Association of Directors of Public Health UK. In 2011, he was awarded the Good Samaritan Medal for Excellence in Health Care by Pope Benedict XVI. Jim is a Chartered Psychologist, Chartered Scientist, and Registered Public Health Specialist. Most recently, he was one of the authors of the national guidance on Local Outbreak Planning and part of Public Health England’s advisory group on COVID-19 and public mental health.

Jim says:

There is no health without good mental health. My public health work—particularly with Bishop Richard Moth and the Catholic Mental Health Project, FaithAction, and the Guild of Health, and St. Raphael—has made me acutely aware of the needs that churches have to become better equipped to support people's mental health and wellbeing. Healing—in all its dimensions—was fundamental to Christ’s mission and the church throughout history has set great store by this. Churches which support peoples’ mental health are at the frontline of that mission. Therefore, it was a joy for me to learn about the work of Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries in 2019. I count it an honour to advocate for them and work with them in creating resources that equip the Church with all that it needs to be a safer place for all people, especially those in the midst of a mental health crisis.

Dr. Edward En-Heng Ng; MDiv, R.Psych.

Edward En-Heng Ng is a Registered Psychologist in private practice in Vancouver. Prior to becoming a psychologist, Ed was a high school science teacher for five years and then, after attending Regent College (MDiv, 2008) he pastored in a small congregation for another four years before starting his doctoral studies at Fuller Theological Seminary's Graduate School of Psychology. His advisor at Fuller was Al Dueck, who introduced him to the field of cultural psychology, which focuses on how people groups tend to speak of themselves instead of relying on Western psychology to describe them. Ed's enduring academic interest since then has centred around critical psychology and the applications of cultural psychology in clinical or counselling contexts. Ed has taught at Trinity Western University and Regent College; he is also the founder and host of the Eastgate Project podcast, which focuses on the intersections of psychology, theology, and the experiences of the Asian diaspora. Ed lives in Richmond with his wife and two sons.

Ed says:

Some of the most influential factors in my taking up the study of clinical psychology were around my experiences as a pastor shortly after graduating from Regent College. Even though all the people around me were "saved," many languished with a variety of mental health issues. Sanctuary's mission to educate and provide support for healing relationships within the Church is one that is both dear to me and a part of the witness of the Kingdom of God to us in the here and now.

Sue Nickel - Lived Experience Advisor

Sue is a retired pediatric nurse and clinical counsellor, and the author of 'Be Held,' a daily reader for those living with clinical depression. She presently works as a Mental Health Advocate and is a lived experience advisor for Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries.

Sue says:

I grew up in a medical home and was a registered nurse myself but, even so, the stigma of mental illness prevented me from being honest with myself and those I loved. As a result, it was decades before I received appropriate treatment and got on the road to recovery. Part of the mandate of Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries is about opening wide the conversation and education about mental illness and the welcome therein of those suffering from it. The subsequent hope and goal is a significant decrease in stigma. It is a privilege for me to participate in this invaluable social and faith-based revolution. 

Rev. Dr. Sharon Smith, PhD; MCS; OT(c); Founding Director

Sharon co-founded Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries in 2011 and served as Executive Director from 2011 to 2016. Sharon has spent much of her professional career working as an occupational therapist in acute and community mental health settings in South Africa and Vancouver, Canada. She has her Masters in Christian Studies from Regent College and her PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences from the University of British Columbia. Her dissertation explored the meaning of spirituality for people living with schizophrenia. She is passionate about working with people who experience mental health issues, facilitating their integration into spiritual communities.

Sharon says:

Being part of Sanctuary expresses an ongoing belief that Christian communities can extend love well. Having walked through recovery, I discovered this to be true and desire it to be true for others. The Sanctuary community is learning to walk this way too—facilitating safety for vulnerability, encouraging creativity, managing our capacity and freedom with affection. If we can do it, anyone can.