Church & Health in Partnership

Speaking the language of trust for better health relationships

Rev. Dr. Cynthia Davis, senior associate pastor and executive director of congregational care at Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, presents at a CHP event.

Introducing physical health and medicine into congregational life can prove a challenge. Pastor Andy Thompson of Bartlett United Methodist Church in Bartlett, Tennessee, has been working to incorporate better health into his congregation and has seen firsthand how successful changes are made.

As a trained Congregational Health Promoter Pastor Thompson is comfortable talking with both clergy and lay people on issues of physical, emotional and spiritual health. “In church there is a built-up community of caring. There is a tradition of caring for those who are sick and infirm, and when you look at it from a congregational lens, and that relationship is built on trust, it allows you to be heard—especially when it’s related to health issues.” When the church shows up to be a trusted advocate, “it seems to increase access to health care in so many ways.”

Having spent 18 years as the director of food service at a long-term health facility, Pastor Thompson is very familiar with dietary recommendations and nutrition. It is his faith, however, not his work experience, that serves as an effective tool to motivate his own healthy progress. “My strength comes from my faith. Knowing that I’m not fighting this fight alone has strengthened my faith. What I’m preaching about God helping you and leading you is true.”

Using the language of the spirit and building a basic level of trust in congregations has been Thompson’s method for openly talking about the body, and in that way he has aimed to give people hope. He believes that “those who have the hope that comes with faith seem to be in a much more positive place for healing. “It is my job to give people that hope and positivity.” Having the comfort to talk about physical issues at church begins with a healthy culture of trust—showing your community that you care about them personally and physically is the natural result.

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