The Healing Community

A spiritual discipline of community after suicide

by Albert Hsu

The brochure showed up anonymously in my mail slot at work. “Survivors of Suicide is a support group open to anyone who has experienced the loss of a relative or friend through suicide,” it read. “Survivors need a safe place to explore their feelings of grief and anger, to raise questions and doubts. We will […]

The Words We Hear

Quietness, patience, and the more gracious path

by Evelyn Bence

In quietness and in trust shall be your strength. —Isaiah 30:15 Last Saturday an unpredictable but perceptive neighbor girl, I’ll call her Nina, was at my table. As is our custom, we’d made and eaten breakfast. We’d turned to doing homework when her grandma, who struggles with English and has no car, called from a […]

Labyrinth of Grief

Living with awareness of loss

by Susan Martins Miller

Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish; come to the mercy-seat, fervently kneel. Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish; earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot heal.” I choked slightly on the words to the hymn, unprepared for them. We had sung that hymn at my father’s funeral 12 years ago. I slipped […]

Be Strong and Bold

Courage to take the next step

by Tracy Hilts

“What do you do for a living?” The question is almost guaranteed to come up in conversation with a new acquaintance. When I say I’m a hospice chaplain the usual response is something like, “That must be a really depressing job! I sure couldn’t do it!” Actually, my job is not depressing. Of course there […]

In the Mighty Stream of Righteousness

by Scott Morris

Before Martin Luther King, Jr. was the iconic leader of the civil rights movement, he was a Baptist preacher. He knew the Bible, and he dug past the surface to the heart of God. The cause of justice is the cause of God. King said, “We are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied […]

A Lenten Liturgy

A congregational call to faithful community well-being

Leader: Let us confess the ways we wander from health and wholeness. People: Almighty God, we confess that we seek satisfaction for ourselves in the moment and do not think of the welfare of others. We confess that we indulge our own desires above the needs of others and grow impatient when we do not […]

The Healing Gift of Bold Lament

The messy middle between Jesus' resurrection and ours.

by Rebekah Eklund

Jesus wept. It’s the shortest verse in Scripture, and one of the most profound. On an otherwise ordinary day, Jesus goes to visit some friends, and when he arrives he walks the path so many of us have taken—to the edge of a grave—and when he gets there he does the most human thing. He […]

Planning a Healing Service in Your Congregation

Many faith traditions offer a service of healing that ministers may choose to follow. If you’re planning one on your own, here are some elements to consider including to address healing and wholeness of relationships with God, neighbors and self. Sensory items for calming and centering. You might use a small rock and water fountain, […]

The Gift of Work

An invitation to kingdom building

by Deidre Riggs

Mom, can you help me out? Would you dry the dishes?” As soon as she asks me, I can feel resistance rising on the inside. I don’t like drying dishes. Drying dishes may be my least favorite chore in all the world. Next to raking leaves. I try to be a grown-up about it. I […]

One Faith, One Body

Members of one another

by Marilyn McEntyre

By the time we reached high school, most of us had encountered the story of Helen Keller, or seen images of Stephen Hawking or Franklin Roosevelt in wheelchairs or Mother Teresa holding a dying child. We learned that Flannery O’Connor lived with lupus and Scott Fitzgerald with alcoholism. Most of us knew a classmate with chronic […]

The Model for Healthy Living

A strategy for whole-person care

by Scott Morris

In 1987, Church Health opened our doors for the first time, and I waited nervously to see if anyone would come to a renovated house that had once been a brothel to see a doctor. We treated 12 patients that day. Now, 30 years later, Church Health sees patients in another renovated home, a Sears […]

Stranger in Our Midst

Reflecting on cultural differences

by Scott Morris

I spent my junior year in college studying abroad in London. It was a great experience. One day I was walking back to the dorm when a car honked its horn from behind. I turned toward it only to have it come right beside me and run over my foot. Thankfully it was a very small […]

Health Ministry Tips to Jumpstart Your Congregation to Better Health

Communication If there is a health ministry team at your church, find out what they do, why they exist, and who is involved. Contact the health ministry leader and communicate your interest in working to promote health in your congregation. Getting Others to Get Medical Attention Build a relationship between your leader, the congregation and […]

Living in Doubt, Living in Faith

Searching for God in the midst of suffering and pain

by Scott Morris

Why can’t you leave a bottle of pills next to the table and let me end this suffering?” Those words came from a good friend who had been a renowned cancer surgeon in his prime. He volunteered to see hundreds of patients of the Church Health Center while he was in practice. He had a […]

Sacred to the Full

Resting at the tables of life

by Ashley Higgins

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” —Mark 6:31 Two weeks before I graduated from seminary in 2014 I trekked off to Taizé, France, with a small group of students and our amazing professor, Dr. Bo Karen Lee. We’d rushed to finish our finals—many of us our final finals—hoping […]

One Plantation, Two Sets of Eyes

Two pilgrims reflect on their experience of Durham’s Pilgrimage of Pain and Hope, specifically on the visit to the Stagville Plantation.

The most significant part of this experience was visiting with people in my faith community an old plantation community that over the course of its existence held around 3,000 enslaved people. I also really enjoyed learning about people in the city’s history about whom I had not yet known. The most striking aspect in many […]

Partnering Police and Pastors

Memphis Police Department’s Clergy Police Academy

by Stacy Smith

Situated in the Bible belt, Memphis, Tennessee, is a city of churches. However, the city has had difficulty recruiting police officers. City officials sought new and better ways to encourage community policing, a practice in which police officers partner with community leaders to improve public safety. Michael Rallings, director of Memphis Police Department, says, “Community […]

Of Popsicles, Fountains, and God

Chasing the vision of God in our lives

by Scott Morris

When I saw Leo and Ozzi standing in the street, I braced myself. “Work?” Leo said, as I suspected he would. “Let’s get started.” I was going to have to supervise. It’s hard to let three- and two-year-olds pull weeds on their own. After pulling three weeds, Leo said, “Popsicle?” “No, you have to pull […]

New Moon Smiling

All I could hear were the sounds God’s world makes

by Larry Kinard

A new moon, an orange crescent, smiled as it settled into an ink black flat lake. It was the moon and a whisper from Marty that made me stop. You should have been there. On most nights at our lake home, after Marty has settled in bed, I go sit outside on our west-facing deck […]

Why Are You Doing This?

A pilgrim's gift of hindsight

by Daniel H. Martins

After five years on the job as bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Springfield (Illinois), I was due for a sabbatical in 2016. A combination of factors led to a decision that placed me in St Jean Pied de Port, France, at the foot of the Pyrenees, on the evening of August 12, ready to […]

The Nature of Care

Claiming the church’s voice in the culture of caregiving

What is the nature of care? Do we “give” care generously, or is it a list of tasks to squeeze into the day? Is there a difference between “care for” and “care about”? Is it a job? A relationship? All of these choices can be true. Caregiving is complex, and no two situations are identical. […]

Like a Little Child

Humbly reaching for God’s hand

by Lizzy Cook

“Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands […]

Sharing the End-of-Life Sojourn

A profound call on body and spirit

by Tracy Hilts

Six weeks after my mother died from abdominal cancer I looked at a picture of a woman standing at a church podium. Clothes several sizes too big hung off a tall, gaunt woman whose tear-streaked face and reddened eyes overfilled with yet more tears. For a moment I wondered who I was looking at. Have […]

Prayers for medical procedures

Fasting before a colonoscopy or surgery is a common part of medical procedures. Of course, fasting has a long and distinguished history in the Christian tradition. Being a little scared before a medical intervention, particularly one that involves vulnerable parts of ourselves, also has a long history. Part of the preparation for a medical procedure […]

7 Spiritual Practices

Cultivating our faith life is an important part of wellness. Here are a few ways to gain new perspective of yourself, others and God throughout the year. Try praying at different times during the day. You may notice that you pray differently at different times of the day. Laughter and rejoicing need to be a part […]

The Gift of Spiritual Direction

Listening well, digging deep, and letting go

by Mary Chase-Ziolek

How do we feed our souls? How do we find what we thirst for most deeply? Over the past 25 years, my life has been nourished through the practice of spiritual direction. Once a month I meet with a spiritual director who listens to me and helps me to pay attention to the movement of […]

Learning to Throw a Spiritual Practice Punch

Engaging our whole selves to become whole and healthy

by Tara Owens

One icebreaker popular at conferences and retreats involves coming up with two true things about you, and one lie. As you get to know the people around you, they guess which of the three things you’ve shared is untrue. I always win. I was an amateur boxer. I even have a fight poster to prove […]

Dancing Away Depression

Liturgical dance as spiritual practice holds out healing hope

by Sarita Wilson

The concept of dance as a healing medium is not new to religion. For centuries, dance has been used as a vehicle to express joy, religious fervor and other emotions. In ancient civilizations, dance was practiced in ceremonial rites, religious events, and in healing rituals as well as to lift spirits or to remove evil […]

Being Enough

Receiving the gift of being God's beloved child

by Laura Bratton

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  —Genesis 1:27 Am I enough? Or am I “less than” others? I struggled with this question from the time I was diagnosed with an eye disease as a child. As I adjusted to becoming […]

Faithful to Empower

Health ministry in every congregation

by J. Elisha Burke

Since its inception in 1899, the Baptist General Convention of Virginia (BGCVA) has remained faithful to its educational mission through outreach that empowers and equips children, youth, women, and men to make and maintain healthy holistic lifestyle choices. The conference is a nonprofit organization representing 1,000 African American churches and 29 regional associations in urban, […]

Book Review

Embracing the Body

Finding God in Our Flesh and Bone

reviewed by Susan Martins Miller

Tara M. Owens’s thesis that our bodies teach us about God is exquisite because of its tender vulnerability in showing us her personal story of the fear, shame and guilt that kept her from listening to—and learning from—her own bodily experience. “Our bodies are an integral part of our selves and tell us what we […]

It Takes a Congregation

Health Ministry by Everyone, for Everyone

by Sharon T. Hinton

Communities of faith are varied and diverse in their beliefs, traditions, missions, and membership, but they have one trait in common: congregations have built-in strengths for vibrant health ministries in an environment that invites a wide range of people to participate. No matter how varied and diverse the settings, health ministry pulls on a common […]

Why Health Ministry?

Good news through a whole-life lens

by Scott Morris

Once when I told a pastor he had diabetes, he refused to believe it. “I do not receive it,” he said. “Whether you receive it or not, you have it,” I responded, the lab report in my hands. Before putting him on mediation, I gave him 90 days. He enrolled in a nutrition class at Church Health […]

God is a Master Planner

by Kat Franchino

“The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.” – Proverbs 16:9 As a child, my goals were elaborate and a bit lofty. Adulthood, my 10-year-old self speculated, would be spent living in an actual tree and creating terrific pieces of art that people would flock to buy. And, I told myself, […]

Every Church an Innovator

Just as Jesus responded to the immediate needs of his community, the church is called to an innovation process that places empathy at its core.

by Floyd Thompkins and Byron Bland

Every community desires to equip young people with the spiritual, social and psychological skills that are needed for them to have a bright future. This is especially difficult in economically and socially challenged areas and neighborhoods. Yet fewer young people are attracted to our churches. More, alarmingly, the rates of violence and death among middle […]

Choosing Church

My life as a reflection of my love for the church

by Scott Morris

My earliest memory of church is when I was about five and my mother dressed me in a white suit and hat for Easter morning. I thought I looked dandy. More important, when it came time for the Easter egg hunt, my goal was to crush the other children. The game. The adventure. Is that […]

Signs of Jesus

by Ron McDonald

“And, lo, I will be with you always, even to the end of the ages.” —Matthew 28:20 As my father was dying in 2012 I drove to North Little Rock, Arkansas, to visit him and my mother for what I knew would be the last time. Dad still had his wits about him and was […]

A Letter to my Daughter…

On Her First Easter in Heaven

by Robyn Bles

Oh my darling girl, I started this holy season utterly aching for you. It had been two months since you passed, and Ash Wednesday was just that, ashes and barren. As I prepared to lead Ash Wednesday services, I tried to believe the promise of this day; that we all return to this state. I […]

Living our Limits

An Introduction to the Study of Disability

by Darla Schumm

What is disability? Who is disabled? What signifies a “normal” body? What does it mean to be part of a minority group deserving of rights and protections? No simple answers exist to these or a host of related questions that arise when attempting to understand and define disability. Like the bones, sinews, muscles, flesh and […]

Recipe

Whole Wheat Ginger Bread Loaf

developed by Church Health Center Wellness

Baking is a great way to celebrate the holidays with children. This healthy recipe uses fun ingredients and provides plenty of opportunities for measuring, stirring and discussing healthy food. The welcoming smell of gingerbread will warm the soul and the taste will please little ones’ tummies. Pair a slice of this loaf with warm apple […]

Interrupting Poverty

The church is called to more at the intersection of poverty and health.

by Antony Sheehan

I grew up in an English mining community, where I attended a Catholic school. From a young age, I heard people pray for members of the parish who were disabled by the dust they inhaled, which blocked their airways and slowly suffocated them. Later, after I left school, the mines closed and there were no […]

A Model Hospital

How one medical center is making the Model for Healthy Living come to life

by Mary Boland

The OSF Saint Francis Medical Center Wellness Services has taken the Model for Healthy Living to a whole new level by using its structure in their Surgical Weight Loss Program. They’ve devised a revision of the information provided to patients by crafting Journey to Better Health Wellness Passports. The pocket-sized passports are easily portable so […]

A Community Called Home

Ministries Creating a Dwelling Place for the Moral Injury of Our Veterans

by Elsa Peters Cook

“The trauma that warriors face can’t be healed by medication or even talk therapy,” explains the Rev. John Schluep. “It can only come through the gritty work of being in the trenches.” With the increasing awareness that 22 veterans commit suicide each day, communities of faith are looking for new ways of being in the […]

Health Care, the Whole Person, and Community Engagement

A Case Study of the Church Health Center of Memphis, TN

by Antony Sheehan, Maureen Bisognano and Robert Waller

This article is excerpted from Health Care, the Whole Person, and Community Engagement: Church Health Center of Memphis, Tennessee by Sheehan, A., Bisognano, M., Waller, R. Published by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Cambridge, Massachusetts, October 2014. The full article is available at www.ihi.org. The Church Health Center in Memphis, Tennessee, is committed to encouraging […]

Walking in Forgiveness

Needing to be forgiven and finding grace

by Faith Simone

Making the decision to forgive can be daunting. Forgiveness seems unappealing, perhaps even irrational. Why should we forgive someone who’s obviously in the wrong? Why should we let the person off the hook? What if the offender doesn’t even have the decency to request our forgiveness in the first place? Are we expected to offer […]

Book Review

Beyond the Gold

What Every Church Needs to Know about Sports Ministry

reviewed by Mary Boland

In his book, Beyond the Gold: What Every Church Needs to Know about Sports Ministry, Bryan Mason emphasizes the relevance of sports ministry, through which churches can discover a new, invigorating avenue for engaging their congregation, as well as garnering more opportunities to spread their mission beyond the church walls. From discussions on how to […]

Wheels of Wellness

Exploring faith-based healthy living models in Living Compass, the Model for Healthy Living, and the Lutheran Wholeness Wheel

by Susan Martins Miller

“Cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you,’” Jesus said to his followers before sending them out into the towns where he himself intended to go (Luke 10:9). In Jesus’ ministry, healing and well-being were closely connected with the kingdom and presence of God. […]

In Remembrance of Me

Invisible Disabilities and Radical Welcome

by Joanna Hipp

On November 28, 2013, I boarded a plane from Busan, Korea, bound for the United States. Ten hours into the flight I started to feel funny. My jaw began to hurt, and I felt light-headed. I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror: my lips were blue, my face and chest were red. […]