Recommended Reading for Living with Chronic Pain

The Pain Chronicles: Cures, Myths, Mysteries, Prayers, Diaries, Brain Scans, Healing, and the Science of Suffering by Melanie Thernstrom (2011). A fascinating combination of personal narrative and reporting on the nature of chronic pain. Honoring the Body: Meditations on a Christian Practice by Stephanie Paulsell (2003). A thoughtful, gentle book for recognizing the wonder and […]

Take Every Thought Captive

Watchfulness for healthy stress management

by Philip G. Monroe

Mindfulness has clear positive health benefits by reducing our stress responses to the chaos in our lives. Mindful individuals appear to have greater amounts of patience, are able to avoid impulsive responses to stress, process rather than react to emotions, and have greater capacities to be curious and loving. It is well-known that small amounts […]


Congregational Mental Health

A review of The Lifesaving Church: Faith Communities and Suicide Prevention by Rachael A. Keefe

reviewed by Lauren Hales

Rachel Keefe, pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in the Twin Cities, writes extensively about her own personal struggle with depression, an eating disorder, and past suicide attempts in The Lifesaving Church: Faith Communities and Suicide Prevention. Keefe uses strong narrative and personal insight into the life of someone who struggles with mental […]

Mindfulness in the Christian Tradition

by Tim Stead

The story goes back to the 1970s when Jon Kabat-Zinn, with a PhD in molecular biology, began to develop a meditation-based program to help support people suffering from chronic pain. When he began to realize that the practices might have some significant health benefits, he developed an eight-week program that later became known as Mindfulness […]

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 […]

Summer 2018 Editor’s Note

by Rachel Davis

Christians pray. Many of us clear space for regular devotional practice to open ourselves to a word from God—often in the morning to set the tone for the day. We meditate on phrases or verses from Scripture and perhaps have favorites that bring us back to our spiritual centers when we have busy, stressful seasons. […]

Getting Started with Mindfulness

Mindfulness practices bring many benefits but don’t have to be overwhelming. Like many habits, the more we practice, the better we get, but we don’t have to be experts before we can start. Here are some ideas for getting started with mindfulness in small doses in a variety of ways until you hit your stride. […]

Adverse Childhood Experiences

What they are, why they matter, and what a congregation can do

by Lauren Hales

Amy Scott, director of Bethany Christian Services of Greater Chattanooga, is working to change the way faith communities react to, and understand, health and behavioral problems. Amy is a certified ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) awareness trainer who delivers ACE trainings to decrease stigma and increase education on this often-overlooked topic. Congregations, which often have caring […]


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 […]

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 […]

A Grief Unseen

Living with loss that is not death

by Matthew Patrick

This morning as I walked my nine-year-old son to the bus stop, I reached to hold his hand, as I do every day. But this time he pushed my hand away. He didn’t want the other kids to see him holding his father’s hand. I realized I probably would never hold his hand again as […]

Congregational Conversations on Death and Dying

Workshops and resources make the talking easier

by Lauren Hales

Linda Walsh and Ivy Foo answer the daily call to care for the lives of their parishioners by faithfully walking alongside them during times of grieving. Linda, a faith community nurse and director of pastoral care, and Ivy, pastoral care coordinator, work alongside other lay and clergy to serve the needs at the Catholic Church […]

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 […]

Jumpstart the Conversation Around End-of-Life Issues

From Life to Life Eternal: Discussing Death as People of Faith

How we deal with the end of our lives has significant impact on the health care industry, the government and our society. Even more, it affects our finances, our families and our faith. The Church has much to say about life, death and life eternal. Yet often the Church has difficulty dealing with the complexities […]

A Prayer for Healing Hope

by Susan Martins Miller

Prayer binds us together in healing. Whether you struggle with your own emotions during heartbreaking circumstances or wonder how to share in another’s journey through pain toward hope, the words of this prayer offer reminders of God’s faithful presence and tenderness toward us. Download this prayer>> Buy Zovirax online

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 […]

Emotional Health & Congregations

Emotional health turns on how well we manage stress and understand our feelings so we can care for ourselves well. Does your congregation add to stress or help participants in the faith community live in emotionally healthy ways? Here are pitfalls and blessings of congregational life when it comes to stress. A church increases stress […]

Sanctuaries for Mental Health

In the past, Christians have prioritized caring for the spirit and even the body but haven’t always known what to do with the mind. People of faith may stigmatize mental illness as resulting from sin, consequently encouraging church members to stay silent about their internal struggles and to sit in judgment on those who are […]

Yelling at God

The gifts of rest and peace

by Tracy Hilts

Have you ever thought of yelling at God? Did you hold back from telling God exactly what you were thinking and feeling out of fear you’d be struck by lightning? Robert was that way. He spent eight months watching as death came nearer to his wife of 48 years. Then, during one of my visits […]


Attending: Mindfulness, Medicine and Humanity

by Ronald Epstein, MD Reviewed by Sharon Thorpe

Attending: Mindfulness, Medicine and Humanity (Scribner, 2017) by Ronald Epstein, MD, is a book about mindfulness and medical practice. Dr. Epstein conducted research in this area highlighting the advantages not only for patients but also for medical providers. The book centers on the foundations of mindfulness in four segments, Attention, Curiosity, Beginner’s Mind, and Presence. […]


Healthy Responses to Spiritual Trauma

A review of Sacred Wounds: A Path to Healing from Spiritual Trauma by Teresa B. Pasquale

Teresa Pasquale’s book, Sacred Wounds, dives deep into spiritual trauma and its long-lasting consequences in those it affects. She pulls from her own experience, both as a victim of religious trauma as well as working in therapeutic settings with trauma and addiction treatment, to create an immersive, well-defined perspective. Immediately, her tone is gentle, engaging […]

Too Tired to Care

Recovery from the wounds of personal care fatigue

by Shane Stanford

I was sixteen. My mother was keeping something from me, and I didn’t know what it was. She did what parents often do—get all the facts, understand the big picture and seek the right moment for conversation. The difference was this conversation had the potential to shred the future. I knew from her face that […]

No Whispers

Caregiving for mental illness

by Cynthia Davis

No one should have to whisper about mental health disorders.” Kay Warren came to Memphis from California, where she shares with her husband the ministry of the well-known Saddleback Church, and spoke these words. At Christ United Methodist Church, we were holding our second annual Mental Health Breakfast, where she told the story of losing […]

Comfort from a Furry Friend

Lutheran church comfort dogs spread mercy and compassion

by Mary Boland

Few things bring more comfort and joy than a tail-wagging, shaggy golden retriever. Known as some of the most loyal, gentle, and kind dogs around, the golden is an ideal choice to train as a service dog. The typical image of a service dog is one that is trained to help someone who has a […]

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 […]

They Done Broke Our Grandson

A dog attack, a trip to the ER, and the legacy of Marty’s wisdom

by Larry Kinard

Our oldest and only grandson was bitten by a dog a few weeks ago and when I say bitten, I mean attacked. I know the phrase “attacked by a dog” sounds pretty harsh but if it is your son, daughter or grandson that’s been attacked, and then it’s dead-on accurate. Apparently said grandson, age six, […]

Responding To Trauma Triggers

What they are and how you can help

by Melanie Ferguson

Trauma triggers are experiences that remind someone of a traumatic event. They can involve anything from sensory memories like smells or sounds to certain places, people, activities, or conversations. Triggers may be expected or unexpected, conscious or unconscious. Responses to triggers can vary greatly, but may be: Physical (shortness of breath, heart racing, muscle tension, […]

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 […]

To Be Known And Loved

Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Atlanta, Georgia

by Mary Button

I was in my second year studying ethics at the Candler School of Theology when I first visited Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in southeast Atlanta. In typical fashion I tiptoed into the sanctuary about five minutes after the start of worship. My good friend and fellow student was preaching that day, and I had hoped […]


Living in Conflict, Living in Abundance

Q&A with Raeda Mansour, the only parish nurse in Palestine

by Jeff Hulett

Raeda Mansour is a parish nurse at Christmas Lutheran Church in the ancient city of Bethlehem and the only parish nurse in Palestine. While the city of Bethlehem is most famous as the birthplace of Jesus Christ, the modern day city is home to a population of 25,000 people and located within the Palestinian territory […]

After the Tragedy

After the murders at Emanuel AME, I turned to silence, community and Scripture to help bear the pain of loss.

by William Miller

For me, faith has a complex new meaning in the days following the tragedy that occurred in a Bible study held at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. I remember walking through the door at home that evening after attending Vacation Bible School at the church I pastored and almost simultaneously receiving […]

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 […]

Invisible Countries

Traveling with others through their stories of trauma

by Susan Palwick

In the medical world, the word trauma refers to very specific classes of life-threatening injury. The hospital where I volunteer isn’t a trauma center, which means that—except for a few rare cases where trauma patients arrive under their own power, and even rarer mass casualty incidents—we don’t see people who’ve been shot, stabbed, severely burned, […]

Intergenerational Living

You're Never Too Old (or Young) to be a Good Neighbor

by Mary Boland

Housing is often a particular issue for two groups of people: students and older adults. While college costs only seem to be growing, the need for affordable student housing has never been greater. And for older adults, moving to a nursing home or assisted living apartment often leaves them anxious, lonely, and frustrated. Humanitas Retirement […]

Trauma and the Model for Healthy Living

by Andrea Blanch

How trauma can create challenges within each component of Church Health’s Model for Healthy Living. Faith Life: Building a relationship with God, your neighbors, and yourself. Trauma survivors may question how God could let violent events happen, experience a loss of faith, or come to believe they deserved to be punished. Because their ability to […]

Congregations on Call

Making Your Church a Haven for Mental Health

by Hannah Walter

While mental health disorders are extremely common in the United States, cultural stigmas cause those who suffer to feel shame and, therefore, remain silent. For this reason, it is important that churches take part in the healing process for members and others in the community. Mental Health First Aid Training will help congregations ensure that […]

The One Who Comforts

Trauma, Transformation and the Church as the Caring Other

by Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger

A dear friend of mine, a capable, compassionate and responsible professional woman, thought she was going crazy after 9/11. She was not in New York on that dreadful day, nor in Washington DC. Yet in the weeks and months afterward, she experienced so many inexplicable and frightening symptoms that she sought therapeutic help. She had […]

Be Not Afraid

Creating a system of care built on love, not fear

by Antony Sheehan

I coughed for three weeks straight. I remember enough from my nursing training to know that was not a good sign. Finally, my officemate at the Church Health Center, Dr. Scott Morris, had enough of my hacking. Who can blame him? He practically picked me up by my shirt collar and marched me over to […]

Book Review

Sober Mercies

How Love Caught Up with a Christian Drunk

reviewed by Kat Franchino

Stigma often accompanies addiction. In some religious communities, addiction may be associated with sinfulness, making it difficult for some churchgoing addicts to address their addictions head-on. In Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up With a Christian Drunk, Christian author and recovering alcoholic Heather Kopp writes about her addiction, its effect on her relationship with God, […]

Capturing Love

by Ashley-Anne Masters

Parents should not outlive their children. Yet when the unthinkable becomes reality, many hospitals offer a variety of supportive resources to accompany families in their grief, shock, and heartache. In addition to other memory-makers–such as handprints and saving locks of hair–one beautiful resource offered is that of bereavement photography. For families with infant loss, bereavement photos […]


A Light in the Darkness

Q&A with Lee Wolfe Blum

by Eileen Walsh

Lee Wolfe Blum is an author, wife, mother and survivor of an eating disorder that almost took her life. Her book Table in the Darkness: A Healing Journey through an Eating Disorder (InterVarsity Press, 2013) describes her life and battle with an eating disorder along with a severe case of depression. Through her recovery, Blum […]

God, Anxiety, and Thomas Aquinas

by Robert St. Hilaire

Throughout my life, I’ve always struggled with anxiety, a problem which has sometimes found expression in various kinds of obsessive-compulsive behavior. Usually, this has taken the form of annoying but ultimately harmless kinds of “double-checking”: making sure the oven is turned off, or the front door is locked, or my hands are thoroughly washed. In […]

Creating Living Room

A journey toward peer support for people with mood disorders

by Marja Bergen

One in four people will, at some time of their life, have a mental illness. Christians like myself and many others are not exempt. Psychosis became a part of my life when I was 19, at the time I entered university. I lost touch with reality and became paranoid. My world was a scary place. […]

Breaking Down Walls of Isolation

The Sharing Group

by Susan Martins Miller

Mental illness isolates. Sharing unites. When Jesse Stinson’s life fractured in 1964, this straightforward truth shone the light of healing. Overnight he went from having a job and a family to being in a hospital that treated severe mental illness. For 10 months he moved through the process of first admitting that he was sick—with […]

4 Ways Churches Can Respond to Mental Illness

by Antony Sheehan

Connecting spirituality to issues of mental illness and recovery will not look the same in every congregation, but some broad categories will help both clergy and laypeople consider how to respond to the need for help in incorporating spirituality with less fear of these conditions. Congregations can make a difference by exploring four key areas. […]

Book Review

The Religion of Thinness

Satisfying the Spiritual Hungers Behind Women's Obsession with Food and Weight

reviewed by Rachel Davis

Eating problems are often hard to recognize, but many congregations have members who have a private struggle with food. Author Michelle Lelwica investigates the spiritual side of the quest for thinness in her book, The Religion of Thinness. Arguing that thinness has become a religion of its own, complete with rituals, creeds and icons of […]

Book Review

Dying for a Drink

What You and Your Family Should Know About Alcoholism

reviewed by Rachel Davis

Alcoholism is a devastating illness – for the individual, and their families and friends. Loved ones often suffer silently while the alcoholic continues on their destructive path. Author Anderson Spickard provides a thorough analysis of alcohol addiction and recovery in the book, Dying for a Drink. Spickard begins by dissecting the warning signs, the biological […]