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 […]


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 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. […]

Sing for Health’s Sake

How symbols, singing and the music of faith provide hope and healing

by John L. Bell

The connection between music and healing is well rehearsed. When King Saul felt himself in the grip of an evil spirit, he employed the boy David to play his lyre as a proven means of relief (1 Samuel 16:23). Thousands of music therapists in the present day can offer stunning anecdotes of how music can […]

Healing Christian Healing

Moving beyond the cheap hope of miracle cures to a more honest—and more biblical—understanding of Christian healing

by Katherine Willis Pershey

When I hear the word healing, I think of it in medical terms. I think of doctors who diagnose sickness, treat injuries, research diseases, and work to prevent the onset of pain and illness. I think of state-of-the-art cardiac units and Doctors Without Borders. I think of amoxicillin (despite the fact that it gives me […]


A Modern Day Disciple

Q&A with Martin E. Marty on Granger Westberg

by Stacy Smith

Granger Westberg (1913-1999) was an author, theologian and modern-day healer. He is the subject of the new biography Gentle Rebel: The Life and Work of Granger Westberg, Pioneer in Whole Person Care, written by his daughters Jane Westberg and Jill Westberg McNamara. Editor Stacy Smith spoke with Dr. Martin Marty, one of the world’s most […]

Holy, Healing and Heart Healthy

Red Dress Sunday at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland

by Mary Boland

Heart disease often flies under the radar of self-diagnosis. A slew of other health problems easily could cause shortness of breath, back pain, nausea and jaw pain. Maybe you took those stairs a little too quickly. Maybe you pulled a muscle at the gym. Maybe stress at work has you clenching your jaw. Or maybe […]

A Healing Trust

The mission of Christ was not to guarantee healing, but to give hope.

by Shively T. J. Smith

I was 17 when I lost my 15-year-old brother to cancer. Because of this, I have often pondered questions about healing and faith. Is everyone who is sick meant to be healed? If a believer in Christ dies from sickness, does that mean the person lacked the faith to be healed? How do we answer […]

A Liturgy of Laughs

Congregations rediscover the ancient practice of humor

by Mary Boland

When it comes to humor, church is not often at the fore of the comedic train of thought. Church, in the eyes of many, Christian or otherwise, takes an air of deep solemnity. That, along with a slew of personal beliefs (or lack thereof), is the reason why many people do not attend church on […]

2014 Top 10 Articles – Editor’s Picks

by Stacy Smith

It’s the end of 2014, the start of the New Year – and the season of Top 10 lists! Of course, Church Health Reader is no exception. We have had a wonderful 2014 with lots of success to celebrate. After 7 years, we finally have a brand new website and a new logo. We have also expanded the print […]


Addiction and Surrender

Q&A with Harold Koenig

by John Shorb

Harold G. Koenig, M.D. and professor at Duke University Medical Center, spoke with Church Health Reader about the power of addiction and how spirituality factors into recovery. He is the author of Religion, Spirituality and Medicine: Where Science and Spirituality Meet and The Healing Power of Faith as well as co-author of Counseling Persons with Addictions: A […]

Rock On

Music helped the Rev. John Kilzer beat his addiction. Now he’s paying it forward.

by John Klyce Minervini

John Kilzer is hard to miss. At six-foot-six and bone-thin, he’s like a human lightning rod. His face, angular and careworn, seems to have come a long way—and no wonder. Kilzer has squeezed more life into his 57 years than most of us could fit into 100. First he was a jock. Growing up in […]

Hymn of Healing: In Our Hearts and Neighborhoods

Tune: Royal Oak

by Deborah Patterson

Health ministry leaders are gardeners, sowing seeds of peace, healing and hope in communities across the world, for people of all ages. The Church is not called just to serve its own, but to reach out beyond the doors of the sanctuary to lonely neighbors, children and struggling youth. This hymn reminds us that as […]

Book Review

Beyond Accessibility

Toward Full Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Faith Communities

reviewed by Jeno Smith

Jill is from Massachusetts and lived with a mental illness. She was told by a pastor not to attend a certain congregation anymore because she answered all the questions in the children’s sermon, told people loudly how much she put in the offering, and ate most of the doughnuts during fellowship. Yet no one ever […]

Hymn of Healing: Christ, Heal Me Twice

Tune: Finlandia

by Stacy Smith

This hymn began with a strange and overlooked passage found only in the Gospel of Mark. In Mark 8:22-25, we read the story of a miraculous healing with quite an outcome. Jesus heals a blind man, and after he touches the man’s eyes, the man says that he can see people – but these people […]

Book Review

Help and Hope

Disaster Preparedness and Response Tools for Congregations

reviewed by Brianna Wagner

Help and Hope, assembled and edited by Amy Gopp and Brandon Gilvin, is an anthology of personal stories and advice from people of faith about their experiences with disasters. A number of stories come out of communities that have experienced recent natural disasters, from Hurricane Katrina to Super-storm Sandy, as well as man-made tragedies, such […]

Book Review

Health Ministries

A Primer for Clergy and Congregations

reviewed by Brianna Wagner

In Health Ministries, Deborah L. Patterson lays out a comprehensive guide to all that congregations have to gain from parish nursing. She begins with a history of health ministries, starting with Granger Westberg’s belief that the church is meant to “preach, teach, and heal.” At the time, Westberg was concerned about the increasing isolation and […]

Chronic Neurologic Conditions and the Church

by Bill Holmes

And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison or neurologically or cognitively impaired or autistic or epileptic or…? And the king will answer them. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:39-40 […]

Going to a Thin Place

Pilgrimage as a Sacred Practice

by Stacy Smith

For many, traveling has become a difficult and expensive process. We have anxiety about leaving our homes in the care of neighbors. Some say that traveling puts you at greater risk for disease and illness, and we might be anxious about flight delays and airline security. When it comes to travel, we might think the […]

Meeting God on the Mountain

Boone United Hiking Trail in Boone, NC

by Brianna Wagner

The idea for the Boone United Hiking Trail began two years ago and 7,000 miles away. Rev. John Fitzgerald was the senior pastor of Boone United Methodist and part of a ministry in Korea. An important Korean Christian practice involves traveling up a “prayer mountain,” where worshippers light candles, build shrines and pray. The church […]

A Chaplain’s Prayer for the ER

by Bill Holmes

O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up. (Psalm 139:1-2a) You know when I am doing chest compressions or when I am holding the hand of a frightened patient. You know when I am encountering a difficult family or when I am comforting […]

Book Review

Practicing Care in Rural Congregations and Communities

reviewed by Isabella Basco

In the United States, more than 80% of the people live in cities … However, more than 80% of the land is rural land. Most of the churches in the US are in small towns and rural communities. Health in rural communities is treated differently than in urban areas. Small towns and their close-knit environments […]

Laughing to Healing

How a pastor’s gaffe brought healing to a traumatized congregation

by Teri Thomas

In December 1996, the pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, and his wife were brutally murdered in their home. The couple’s bodies were found beside their Christmas tree, bound with ropes and beaten with an ax.  A 16-year-old boy, a member of the church youth group, was eventually charged and found guilty. The […]


Stronger Together: Research Tips

Q&A with Lance Laird

by Stacy Smith

Lance Laird is assistant professor of family medicine at Boston University and assistant director of the Boston Healing Landscape Project, a program for the study of cultural, therapeutic and religious pluralism. Church Health Reader spoke with him about the importance of research partnerships and how congregations can better partner with research institutions. Stacy Smith: Why […]

Growing an International Garden

They have come from Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and other countries all over the world, but they are all growing in Texas. That is, they are growing mustard, cilantro, peppers and yard-long beans, while also growing connections to each other and their new home. With their refugee neighbors, St. Francis Episcopal Church is growing in relationship […]

Stronger Together

Partnerships in Health Ministry

by Stacy Smith

“For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.” -Romans 12:4–5 We, who are many, are one body in Christ. Paul’s vision of the body of Christ in […]

Two Are Better Than One

Working Together

by Scott Morris

I am not afraid to ask for help. This is not because I can’t make a decision—I make countless important decisions every day. But as the book of Ecclesiastes tells us, “two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil” (4:9). This verse appears in a passage that acknowledges that […]

The Way of Complacency

by Susan Palwick

Christians spend much of Lent meditating on Jesus’ Way of the Cross, the sufferings leading to his death. We imagine ourselves being condemned, carrying our crosses, falling under our burdens. But on Good Friday, we are called to do something else: to reflect on our roles, not as the tormented Christ, but as his executioners. […]

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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]