Send in the Clowns!

Liturgical and caring clowns bring humor and healing to congregations

by R. Alex Chamberlain

Some people can’t abide clowns. They find them frightening, creepy, or so plain weird that they can’t make a connection to the character who stands before them. My wife is one of these people. She remembers the clowns at the circus falling down, appearing to get hurt, and looking for an opportunity to make fun […]

Interview

Making Health Ministry Work

5 Questions with Kirsten Peachey

by Stacy Smith

Rev. Dr. Kirsten Peachey is the director of Congregational Health Partnerships at Advocate Health Care and codirector of The Center for Faith and Community Health Transformation in Chicago, IL. Church Health Reader asked her 5 questions about health ministry. Stacy Smith: Why is health ministry important in the church? Kirsten Peachey: Health ministry is really just […]

Knee Deep in Ashes

by Ashley-Anne Masters

The morning after a parade is never pretty. The flowers are wilted, there is candy in the streets, random clothing is strewn about, and the trash is just waiting to be picked up. The Monday after the Palm Sunday parade was no different. Sure, the donkey had been returned to his rightful owner, but there […]

Review

Living Prepared

How congregations can prepare for “Help and Hope” in the midst of disaster

reviewed by Brianna Wagner

Help and Hope: Disaster Preparedness and Response Tools for Congregations is an anthology of personal stories and advice from people of faith about their experiences with disasters. Assembled and edited by Amy Gopp and Brandon Gilvin, a number of stories come out of communities that have experienced recent natural disasters, from Hurricane Katrina to Super-storm […]

Miracles

Confessions of a Doubter

by Bill Holmes

“Miracle—An event that is considered unusual or extraordinary in that it appears to be contrary to what is currently known of nature. Theologically, the emphasis is on what God has revealed through this event, as in the miracles of Jesus.”   —Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms “What is to one man a coincidence is to another […]

Fearing Death, Dying Alone

by Bill Holmes

He was for most of his 101 years a loving and beloved Methodist pastor. His wife of 50-plus years had died long ago. His bride of 19 years now sat stoically beside his bed, almost as if she did not appreciate the gravity of the situation. He had sustained a right brain stroke that in […]

Creating Communion, Creating Community

Making Homemade Grape Juice for Communion

by Stacy Smith

The congregation still talks about that time when the Rev. Mieke Vandersall brought her homemade juice to the communion table. “I had been canning grape jam and had a little bit left over so I followed a recipe and made grape juice. I brought it to the service the next night and really, it’s amazing. […]

Review

Blessed by the Presence of God

Liturgy for Occassional Services

reviewed by Stacy Smith

The Rev. Russell Mitman felt called to develop his own healing liturgies after a medical doctor in his congregation asked for a service for healing. Along with an insightful history of healing liturgies in the modern Protestant church, Mitman includes a chapter entitled “Anointing for Healing” as one of several categories of occasional services that […]

Book Review

Women’s Uncommon Prayers

Our Lives Revealed, Nurtured, Celebrated

reviewed by Stacy Smith

The book Women’s Uncommon Prayers is very much that – a large selection of beautiful and unusual prayers that cover a spectrum of issues. While all of the authors are women, and there are prayers for specific life events that only affect women, this book offers several prayers and short liturgies that can be useful […]

Book Review

Prayers and Ideas for Healing Services

reviewed by Stacy Smith

Ian Cowie reflects on more than 60 years of ministry in this interesting and thought-provoking book on healing. Most notably, Cowie is acutely aware of the awesome and perhaps frightening power of God’s healing. He does not assume that services of healing will necessarily look like what we might expect in the Church of Scotland […]

Review

Eco Faith: Creating and Sustaining Green Congregations

Book Review

reviewed by Shelby Ussery

In Charlene Hosenfeld’s Eco-Faith, sustainable communities are supported from not only an environmental argument, but also from a theological and psychological standpoint. Hosenfeld argues that in order to create and sustain green congregations, church members and leaders must take action in and around the church, including within the worship services. Many doable actions are proposed […]

What Are You Doing Here?

by Bill Holmes

Now in her eighties, her heart was failing. The only viable option: a mechanical heart valve. She weighed the risks of waking up from surgery no longer the whole person she desired to be. She declined the procedure knowing that death would soon follow. She told her physician that she was not afraid of death […]

Singing our Lives

by Stacy Smith

O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. —Psalm 96:1–2 When I was growing up, each Christmas my church held a carol sing. And each year, my father joined two other esteemed members […]

Book Review

Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God

Book Review

reviewed by Emma F. Connolly

Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God 
-by Sybil MacBeth The aptly named book, Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God, appeals to a wide audience, from preteens through adults. An easy read at around 100 pages, the primary colors of the cover and numerous illustrations inside inspire a childlike glee […]

The Robe

Glimpsing God in the Ordinary

by Bill Holmes

A few years go my gastroenterologist told me that I needed to see a surgeon. There was a lesion in my colon that needed to come out. The biopsy was negative but both the lesion’s position and my age shadowed problems ahead. I consulted an oncologist friend of mine. “Get this done. What are you […]

Hoping for a Comeback

by Bill Holmes

Nothing can save us that is possible. –W. H. Auden Several years ago I stood by the bedside of an elderly woman who was in the last minutes of her life. Her husband of sixty years and her son stood opposite me. She took a few agonal breaths then ceased all signs of life. Her […]

The One Who Walks Alongside

by Bill Holmes

Two-year-old Jonah was from one of Kentucky’s poorest counties. During his prolonged stay in the hospital for meningitis and seizures, the staff noticed that the entire family of five was at the hospital all day, every day. They ate off the patient’s dietary tray, slept on the floor, and bathed in the hospital room. When […]

Compassion and Community, Not Judgment

by Bill Holmes

In the early 1980s I rendered care to a man with headaches, weight loss and extreme malaise. The initial medical and neurologic evaluation failed to yield a diagnosis, but a brain biopsy led to a diagnosis of a disease that was just beginning to be recognized in this country: HIV-AIDS. Despite being treated by the […]

Surveying Bodies and Spirits

Penrose-St. Francis Health Services in Colorado Spring, CO

by Church Health Reader Editors

The language of faith and the language of health can seem to have little in common. One is about the spirit and the other about the body—or are they? One hospital in Colorado Springs, Colorado set out to discover ways to help people in churches find the connection between what happens in their spirits and […]

Crying Out to God

What About Heaven?

by Bill Holmes

Not long ago I encountered a woman whose husband of 56 years was dying after a prolonged illness. In great anguish, she went through a period of wondering if God even heard her prayers. Gradually she accepted that death was at hand, but tearfully added, “What about heaven? Will I see my husband again in […]

The Longest Night

A worship service where sorrow is welcome

by Stacy Smith

The sanctuary at First Congregational Church in Memphis was quiet and calm, sentiments not always common just a few days before Christmas. Alongside the memorable scent of evergreen, the church offered the everyday, plain-clothes smells of the wax and flame. Dozens of flickering candles lit the floor, the tables, and the windowsills. In the darkness, […]

Interview

Health, Wealth and the Role of the Church

Q&A with Jim Wallis

by Sarah Ranson

The president and founder of Sojourners, Jim Wallis is a New York Times bestselling author, public theologian, speaker, and international commentator on ethics and public life. Church Health Reader spoke with him about the church’s healing ministry in the midst of a contentious political society. Sarah Ranson: Jesus spoke often about poverty and you often reference the […]

Book Review

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Book Review

reviewed by Daniel Deffenbaugh

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv Richard Louv’s text is, in my estimation, the most important book written on the impact that nature has on early childhood development. Louv recounts his own experiences as a young boy whose parents allowed him to roam the fields and woods in […]

Book Review

Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality

Book Review

reviewed by Daniel Deffenbaugh

Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality by Barbara Bradley Hagerty Anytime a student says, “This is the best book I’ve ever read,” I take notice. When more than one student says it, I consider it nothing short of a miracle. Such was the case this fall when I assigned this text […]

Who Will Keep Watch Over The Flock?

by Bill Holmes

Several years ago I met Sally Jane as she walked into clinic pushing her severely impaired granddaughter in a wheelchair. Sally Jane had become Melissa’s caregiver when her mother abandoned her, no longer able to cope with the daily behavior problems and seizures. Sally Jane had only an 8th grade education, lived in a mobile […]

Transfiguration

by Susan Palwick

I live in Nevada, the driest and sunniest state in the country. My husband and I moved to Reno in June, which meant that for weeks, we woke up to brilliant sunshine and cloudless skies. When we commented on this gorgeous weather to locals, they just shrugged and said, “Oh, it’s always like this.” Both […]

Interview

Bringing All Bodies to Church

Q&A with Brett Webb-Mitchell

by John Shorb

Brett Webb-Mitchell, author of Beyond Accessibility: Toward Full Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Faith Communities, discusses how congregations can prepare themselves—not only their buildings—for full inclusion. John Shorb: You titled your book Beyond Accessibility: Toward Full Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Faith Communities. Before we discuss going beyond accessibility, how do you think […]

A Place of Beauty and Peace

by Stacy Smith

Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. – Deuteronomy 34:5 Moses does a number of things to prepare for his death: he appoints Joshua as the next leader of the Israelites, he declares how they should remember the Lord during the festival of booths, he […]

Book Review

Sacred Dying

Creating Rituals and Embracing the End of Life

reviewed by Daniel Deffenbaugh

Too often our inquiries into questions of health and wholeness become an elaborate ruse for denying the inevitable. For many of us—in the health professions as well as among the clergy—death is seen as the enemy, something that happens to us. Megory Anderson wants to challenge this notion: death is a process, she argues, something […]

Good News

by Susan Palwick

I didn’t go to church when I was a kid. My father, a furiously lapsed Catholic, wanted nothing to do with faith. My mother, who’d been raised as a lukewarm Presbyterian, simply had no interest in the subject, and was baffled by how anyone could believe in things — like resurrection — that she considered […]

God Given Bodies

by Kendra Hotz & Matthew Mathews

Consider your body. Look at your hands. Feel your pulse. Imagine the bones and cartilage, organs and skin that somehow work together so that you are a living being. Reflect for a moment on the complex levels of coordination between nerves, blood cells and electrical signals in the brain that allow you to be aware […]

Interview

The Holistic Vision of John Wesley

Q&A with Randy Maddox

by John Shorb

John Wesley, 18th-century Anglican priest and founder of Methodism, cared about people’s bodies. Through his sermons and writings, he often advocated a holistic approach for his time emphasizing vigorous exercise, fresh air and healthy diet. In this interview Randy Maddox, the William Kellon Quick Professor of Theology and Methodist Studies at Duke Divinity School, discusses […]

Book Review

Walking with the Poor

Book Review

reviewed by Grace Tazelaar

Walking with the Poor by Bryant Myers My first reading of this book put words and explanations to so many of the thoughts, feelings, and observations that I have had during my tenure in community health development work. Development work is done well by many humanitarian organizations, and we can learn many things from them. […]

Book Review

Honoring the Body: Meditations on a Christian Practice

Book Review

reviewed by Daniel Deffenbaugh

Honoring the Body: Meditations on a Christian Practice
 by Stephanie Paulsell Whether intended or not, I cannot help but detect a hint of irony in Paulsell’s choice of a subtitle. Since when has honoring the body been regarded as a Christian practice? Isn’t the flesh weak, the source of all that tempts us away from […]

Trees Walking

by Stacy Smith

Mark 8: 22-25 – They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, […]

Prayer Shawl Ministry Tips

by Gayle Roberts

It has been said that God is in the details. Well, the details are what often snag you up when you begin a prayer shawl ministry. Here are a few things my congregation and I have learned over the years: Only accept new yarn that is soft and suitable for the shawls.We have made shawls […]

Interview

Abide in Me

Q&A with Dale Fletcher

by John Shorb

Building on 25 years in the health and wellness profession, Dale Fletcher launched Faith and Health Connection, a ministry that teaches and coaches people on healthy living from a Christian perspective. He spoke with Church Health Reader about the importance of Scripture in his life and ministry. John Shorb: How did you first become interested […]

Hymn of Healing: An Open Plea

Tune: Song 34 / The Angel’s Song

by Stacy Smith

The refrain for this hymn draws from Mark 7:34, in which Jesus heals a deaf man who was unable to speak. The scripture says, “He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’ which means, ‘Be opened!’.” At this command, the man’s ears are opened, and he can both hear […]

Creating a More Accessible Church for the Hard of Hearing

by Devorah Greenstein

If you cannot hear the Lord’s words preached from the pulpit, if you cannot hear your pastor’s voice, or if you cannot make out the words of friends in the social hall after worship, what is the point of coming to church? Might as well stay home on a Sunday morning! In fact the truth […]

Interview

A Christian Body Image

Q&A with Michelle Lelwica

by John Shorb

Michelle Lelwica, author of The Religion of Thinness and Starving for Salvation, is an associate professor of religion at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnessota, spoke with Church Health Reader about eating disorders and related problems. John Shorb: How do you see our bodies theologically? How do they relate to God in your view? Michelle Lelwica: We […]

Interview

Where Healing Occurs

Q&A with Larry Pray

by Rachel Davis

Rev. Larry Pray, author and stroke survivor, spoke with Church Health Reader about his rehabilitation process and how churches are places of healing. He is a the co-author with Gary Gunderson of Leading Causes of Life: Five Fundamentals to Change the Way You Live Your Life. Rachel Davis: Can you talk a little about the inspiration and events leading […]

Interview

Preaching on Healing

Q&A with Barbara Lundblad

by John Shorb

The Rev. Barbara Lundblad is a renowned preacher and professor emeritus at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. She spoke with with Church Health Reader about preaching on healing passages from the Bible. John Shorb: What advice would you give for someone preaching on a healing passage? Barbara Lundblad: Anyone who follows the lectionary will be […]

Interview

Taking Care of God’s Creation

Q&A with Charlene Hosenfeld

by John Shorb

Charlene Hosenfeld, author of Eco Faith: Creating and Sustaining Green Congregations, talked with Church Health Reader about caring for creation and our health. John Shorb: How is going green in a congregation connected to our health and wellness? Charlene Hosenfeld: Clean water, air and soil sustain healthy life on earth. When we poison our water, […]

Interview

Holy Listening

Q&A with Dan Deffenbaugh

by John Shorb

Daniel Deffenbaugh is professor of theology at Hastings College in Hastings, Nebraska and author of Learning the Language of the Fields. He spoke with Church Health Reader about gardening, theology and the church’s call to heal. John Shorb: How do you see the connection between mind, body and spirit? Does that play a part in […]

Interview

Struggles in the Dark

Q&A with Kathryn Green-McCreight

by John Shorb

Rev. Kathryn Greene-McCreight, author of Darkness Is my Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness, spoke with Church Health Reader about mental health and the church. John Shorb: How did you arrive at the title of your book Darkness is my Only Companion? Kathryn Greene-McCreight: It is from Psalm 88 in the Episcopal Prayer […]

Book Review

Making Crosses

A Creative Connection to God

reviewed by Emma F. Connolly

Get out there. Take a walk, find some sticks. A charming new book from Paraclete Press, Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God, by award-winning writer Ellen Morris Prewitt, can change your perspective on the way you interpret everyday things. This book introduces a new type of spiritual discipline: finding and using simple, sometimes discarded, […]

Hymn of Healing: Loving Jesus, Living Body

Tune: Beach Spring

by Stacy Smith

Paul uses the metaphor of the “body” in his letters to the Corinthians, Ephesians and Romans. In the most famous passage,1 Corinthians 12, Paul explains the different spiritual gifts that are given to each person in service to Christ. He likens these different gifts to different body parts that have a variety of functions, yet […]

Interview

The Heart of Homemaking

Q&A with Kimberly Hahn

by John Shorb

Kimberly Hahn, author of Graced and Gifted – Biblical Wisdom for the Homemaker’s Heart, sees relationships as central to homemaking. In this interview, she shares her vision on how to maintain a healthy, balanced home. John Shorb: How do you approach homemaking faithfully? Are there any guiding Bible passages for you? Kimberly Hahn: Years ago when […]