Mental Illness

How Can Congregations Respond?

by Marja Bergen

I received an e-mail recently from a friend, who was concerned about an acquaintance of his, Bill, with a new diagnosis of bipolar illness. Bill had suffered greatly in the previous years. Although the bipolar diagnosis was hard to accept, he realized that he needed to learn to manage it. For me, these were the […]

Fine and Blessed

by Scott Morris

Every time I walk in to a patient’s room at Church Health, I make it a point of asking how the patient is feeling emotionally before we get on to physical concerns. More often than not, my patients respond with: “Fine and blessed.” “Fine and blessed” is especially what many of my older patients say. […]

Playing Through

One Couple’s Notes on the Cancer Dance

by Sharon Pavelda

“I have a surprise for you,” said Randall, rushing up to meet me at our appointed rendezvous. Seeming unusually pleased with himself, he looked more like a young suitor than a 64-year-old husband. He put his arm around me and started ushering me down the hallway, smiling and chuckling to himself. “Close your eyes and […]

A Play-Full Life

Slowing Down and Seeking Peace

by Jaco Hamman

I smelled God. Maybe you have, too. It happened in northern Montana as I was making my way along forest and fire roads on my off-road motorcycle with my riding partner, Barry. We stopped to don our rain gear just as a torrential storm exploded above and around us. Even with our off-road motorcycles, traveling […]

I Draw Smiles

Cartoons and caricatures can bring comfort

by Nick Nixon

As a humor writer, illustrator and cartoonist, I seem to be able to find some humor in almost everything, and my cup is always at least half full. When I was diagnosed with cancer back in 2007, my oncologist told me to hang onto that positive attitude and sense of humor, and that it would […]


Seriously Funny Spirituality

Q&A with Father Jim Martin

by Stacy Smith

Father James Martin is best known as the official chaplain of the Colbert Nation, a virtual country inhabited by fans of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, the satirical late-night news show hosted by Stephen Colbert. But while Fr. Jim is funny, this Jesuit is no joke. He’s the editor-at-large of America Magazine and the author […]

Book Review

Holy Play

The Joyful Adventure of Unleashing Your Divine Purpose

reviewed by Mary Boland

In his book, Holy Play: The Joyful Adventure of Unleashing Your Divine Purpose, Kirk Byron Jones emphasizes the true power vested in humanity—a power too often diminished in religious teaching—for co-creating our lives’ purpose with God. He makes use of various Scripture passages and anecdotes, allowing an element of play that shows the joyful aspect of the […]

Laughter is the Best Medicine

by Susan Sparks

“Is this going to take long?” I asked the nurse. I needed to know because I had wedged this terribly inconvenient medical test between two important meetings, and the time for the second was quickly approaching. “I don’t think so,” she answered. The door then opened, and the doctor appeared with a pathologist in tow. […]

Dream Homes & Places to Retreat

A quick, meaningful art project that anyone can do with an older person one-on-one or with a group

by Allison Decamillis

This is a quick, meaningful art project that anyone can do with an older person one-on-one or as a group. It is an excellent way for families to connect with older loved ones, and it is fun for all ages and skill levels. Make the most of the creative experience by concluding with a lively group […]

Reaching Out

by Susan Palwick

I met you years ago, and I never knew your name. I’ve never forgotten you, though, and I think about you especially during the holidays, when so many people feel so lonely. You should have been old enough to walk when I met you, but you weren’t walking. Part of that was because your leg […]


Let Us Laugh! Finding Joy in the Face of Cancer

Q&A with the Rev. Susan Sparks

by Stacy Smith

Rev. Susan Sparks’s bio reads like the set-up for a joke. She’s an ex-trial lawyer, a stand-up comedian, and the pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City. In her book Laugh Your Way to Grace: Reclaiming the Spiritual Power of Humor, she finds the funny in her journey through life, ministry, and […]

Live. Laugh. Love.

by Ashley-Anne Masters

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard […]

Beat the Winter Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a condition that comes with the changing of the seasons, affecting many people’s moods through the winter. Symptoms mirror those of depression, creating fatigue, sadness, anxiety, overeating, and mood changes. Tips to counteract SAD: Exercise, especially outdoors in the daylight. A healthy diet full of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables […]

Reflecting through Art in San Marcos, Nicaragua

by Church Health Reader Editors

Considering the eight-meter long mural just completed by the women of her community, Fabiola Cerda expressed its impact: “I didn’t know we had the ability to create something so beautiful with our own creativity. I realized the many different ways that violence can take shape. It isn’t only physical.” Last winter Fifo and Ellen Bermudez, […]

Connection through Caring

Bethleham Lutheran Church in St. Charles, IL

by Church Health Reader Editors

Baking. Visiting. Organizing. Serving meals. Listening. Transporting. Knitting. Welcoming. Fixing. Mentoring. Communing. Praying. Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Charles, Illinois offers a robust congregational care ministry that supports the emotional health of its members. The ministry seeks to connect those who need care with those who want to care for others within the body of […]

Did You Know? Blue Christmas

by Stacy Smith

What is “Blue Christmas?” Blue Christmas, or Longest Night, is a service of worship designed for people suffering with pain, loss, isolation and grief in the Advent season. As Nancy Townely says, “On this night, or anytime this service is presented, we remember those for whom the holidays are not joyful; they are lonely, in […]

Mindful of Grace

Viewing Mental Illness Through the Eyes of Faith

by Matthew S. Stanford

“… I have known rejection after rejection to the point where I have left several churches. There is no support in the church for this kind of illness at all, there is only alienation. Funny how if it had been breast cancer or heart disease, the whole church would rally around me. But for the […]


A Tapestry of Brokenness

Q&A with John Kilzer

by John Shorb

Rev. Dr. John Kilzer is associate pastor at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee where he leads The Way, a music-centered service of recovery based on the Beatitudes and the 12 Steps. He shared his remarkable story with Church Health Reader and how recovery is a process we should all embrace.   John […]


End-of-Life Curriculum for African-Americans

by Richard Payne

I am an African-American physician who has practiced in academic environments for my entire career. I have also experienced firsthand the struggles of fellow African American patients and families with end of life decision-making. Therefore I was particularly interested in providing educational and training opportunities for colleagues that would improve their skills, competency and confidence […]


Learning How to Die

Q&A with Stanley Hauerwas

by Sarah Stoneking

Stanley Hauerwas is the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School. In 2001, he was named by Time Magazine “America’s Best Theologian,” the same year he delivered the prestigious Gifford Lectureship at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Hauerwas has written prolifically across disciplinary lines: from political theory to medical […]

Last Supper

by Susan Palwick

My father loved to eat. He preferred simple, healthy food to anything fancy, and was a big fan of salad and fish. During the years he lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, only minutes from the docks where the fishing boats pulled in, my sister and I gorged on shrimp during our visits. We’d go […]