Viki Rife and Liz Sprankle, members at Leesburg Grace Brethren Church in northern Indiana, have been meeting together for years for encouragement, support, and prayer as they both navigated their anxiety. A friend recommended the book Finding Quiet by J.P. Moreland to Viki, who read it and in turn recommended it to Liz. The author of the book is a professor of theology at Biola University and addresses anxiety from a biblical perspective and offers tools that helped him overcome his own anxiety and depression.
As they two women continued to learn about managing anxiety, several individuals in their church reached out to them and opened up about their own anxiety. After several conversations and much prayer about how to best minister to these people, Liz and Viki offered to gather a group together to read through Finding Quiet.
They named the group PASS, standing for panic and anxiety support system, and they began meeting once a month in 2019. Originally the group was about half church attenders and half non-church attenders. As the group connected, those who initially did not attend Leesburg Grace began attending because of the strong relationships they built within the group. “I look around on a Sunday morning and see members of the group greeting one another and sitting together,” Liz said. “It’s been neat to see the sense of community, because everyone knows everyone’s stories and they have each other’s backs,” Viki added.
A year into meeting, Liz stumbled upon an entry in a small local newspaper asking if anyone knew of an anxiety support group. Liz responded to the inquiry and invited the man to join their group. Not only did the man start attending the group, but he and his wife also started attending the church. “He’s almost a different person now. He went from being unable to be around people to being so full of life and joy and sharing his testimony in front of the whole congregation.”
“The group is a lifeline to many people,” Viki said, “Especially during 2020 when everyone’s anxiety was sky high.” Eventually the group worked through all the concepts in the book, but they kept meeting and bringing in new concepts. “This isn’t a dumping ground or pity party. It’s an encouraging time of asking, ‘how can we grow through this and not wallow in it?’” The group has also adopted a mascot — a dog who attends their meetings and is always up for hugs and pets from anyone who is soothed by the animal’s presence.
“A lot of what we do is helping people see truth and not funnel their thoughts through the world’s view but through God’s. We talk a lot about our identity in Christ.” Viki and Liz are committed to keeping God at the center of their discussions, and they provide group members a tool kit of resources.
Liz and Viki strongly believe people need to know they aren’t alone in their anxiety. They hope other churches will offer similar support systems and they are willing to talk and share resources with anyone who wants to start a similar group. Those interested in more information can connect with them here.