The Way of the Pilgrim

Learning prayer in the mindful life

by Scott Morris

When I was a student at Yale Divinity School, professor and author Henri Nouwen was always talking about the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The idea is that you repeat it over and over to clear your mind of other thoughts. On a couple of occasions with […]

Sanctuary, Silence, and Service

A congregation’s venture into mindful worship

by Lauren Hales

At Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Marshall, Texas, gentle lighting, calming instrumental music, and flickering candles interspersed throughout the sanctuary contribute to the immediate sense of calm and welcome worshippers have come to expect at the Sunday night contemplative service. This congregation of Cumberland Presbyterians are innovating what a Sunday’s worship schedule looks like by offering […]

Wise Words, Abundant Hearts

Offering peace through blessing

by Tracy Hilts

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Thankfully, the fallacy of this adage has become clear. We know words do devastate, and we know words do bless. In healthy relationships, we choose our words wisely to avoid tearing down one another. We are also wise to cultivate healthy relationships […]


Coaching Others to Better Health

Constant discovery of spirituality and health Q&A with Laura Todd

How does your daily experience of work offer the opportunity to appreciate your own skills, talents and gifts? My job is never the same day to day, but as a health coach I can always count on the opportunity to be blessed by people’s histories and the faith stories they share with me. My job […]

Bible Study on the Move

Walking, talking, praying, and community

by Lauren Hales

In Crosstown Concourse, a mixed-use redevelopment located in Memphis, Tennessee, a dedicated group of people meets weekly to feed both their spirits and their bodies. Pastor Byron Fitchpatric, head pastor of the new Crosstown Church, lives in the Concourse with his family and volunteers with Church Health to lead this group in a time of […]

Summer 2018 Health Ministry Connections

How to Use This Issue in Your Congregation

Mindfulness, Christian tradition, and health care—three threads intertwine for fuller, balanced lives open to the presence of God in both ordinary moments and larger experiences. In many congregations, this combination may be unfamiliar, and this issue of Church Health Reader helps bring the experiences together for improved health. How can you use this issue in […]

Back to School Prayers

Blessing and sustaining a new school year

Back-to-school can be a nervous time for everyone. Use these prayers to uphold people in prayer and to help you remember those who could use a word, touch, or small act of kindness as the new academic year gets underway. A Prayer for Students Lord, we lift hearts grateful for gifts of curiosity and imagination. […]

A New Heart Finds a New Home

A legacy in transition

by Aubrey Beauchamp

In the early 1970s a friend and I were employed in a brand-new hospital. The paint on the walls had barely dried. It didn’t take us long to identify other Christians on the new staff. Since my home was nearby, we invited several employees for prayer and fellowship once a week. We prayed specifically for […]

Start your mindful devotional walk with the Walking With series

Church Health’s Walking With devotional books offer tools to invite the movement of God into the movement of your body. Each of these books includes 42 days—six full weeks—of daily devotions designed to help readers make small changes and simple lifestyle improvement to health and faith. Participants add steps, water and vegetables to daily routines. […]

From Life to Prayer

Talking to God by writing psalms

by Robin Gallaher Branch

The octogenarian cocked her head as she considered my Bible study assignment: write a psalm. “I, I, I’ve never done that,” she stammered. “I never thought I could. Is it, is it okay?” Commending her honesty, I encouraged her to try and asked, “Do you pray?” “Yes! Of course!” she replied. “Trust me,” I smiled. […]

Celebrate Differences for Healthier Children and Communities

Speak and model the language of racial solidarity at church

by Michelle Reyes

The children in our church don’t always talk to each other. It’s not what you think. I’m grateful we don’t have issues with cliques or bullies, and we don’t have huge age gaps. Rather, not everyone shares the same language. We are an urban, multicultural church in east Austin, Texas, and on any given Sunday, […]

MESH Monday: Experience, Strength, and Hope

Melody was over 60 when she walked through the doors, shattered by the grief that addiction brought into her life. It happened the first time in her late 40s, and now she was going through it again. Addiction gripped a family member, and she could do nothing to help. Now she was the one who […]

Sacred Space of Community and Worship

Black Church Food Security Network

by Lauren Hales

At Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland, Rev. Dr. Heber Brown, III, pastors a congregation that serves as the flagship garden and impetus for the Black Church Food Security Network (BCFSN). The BCFSN provides start-up funds and garden expertise for African American congregations to begin growing healthy food on church land. Rev. Brown explains, […]


Live the Life You Were Created For

A review of The Dream of You: Let Go of Broken Identities and Live the Life You Were Made For by Jo Saxton

reviewed by Susan Martins Miller

“Is this the life you were meant to live?” This is the central question author and speaker Jo Saxton challenges readers to face honestly. Aimed at women, The Dream of You is a candid examination of the ways our God-given identities get broken, the wounds and self-talk we carry, the baggage of our insecurities, the […]


In Silence and Stretching

A chaplain finds his vocation Q&A with Jonathan Lewis

With an undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia in religion and an MDiv from Duke Divinity School, Jonathan Lewis is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church and a board-certified chaplain working on a doctor of ministry degree in pastoral counseling at Memphis Theological Seminary. He works for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in […]

Centering Prayer

Set an intention to become open to God’s presence

by Lauren Hales

At Church of the Holy Communion (Episcopal) in Memphis, Tennessee, a faithful group with representatives from congregations all over the city have been meeting on the first Saturday of every month for Centering Prayer for the last 17 years. The group knows each other well, having spent much time together in prayer, contemplation, and joy. […]

Why Church Is the Place to Talk about Sexuality

Q&A with Kate Ott

by Kate Ott

Dr. Kate Ott is author of Sex + Faith: Talking with Your Child from Birth to Adolescence. She lectures and leads workshops across the country on sexuality and technology issues related to children, teens, young adults and parents. Church Health Reader’s managing editor, Susan Martins Miller, interviewed her about her writing and teaching on sexuality […]

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 […]