Partnering Police and Pastors

Memphis Police Department’s Clergy Police Academy

by Stacy Smith

Situated in the Bible belt, Memphis, Tennessee, is a city of churches. However, the city has had difficulty recruiting police officers. City officials sought new and better ways to encourage community policing, a practice in which police officers partner with community leaders to improve public safety. Michael Rallings, director of Memphis Police Department, says, “Community […]

Of Popsicles, Fountains, and God

Chasing the vision of God in our lives

by Scott Morris

When I saw Leo and Ozzi standing in the street, I braced myself. “Work?” Leo said, as I suspected he would. “Let’s get started.” I was going to have to supervise. It’s hard to let three- and two-year-olds pull weeds on their own. After pulling three weeds, Leo said, “Popsicle?” “No, you have to pull […]

New Moon Smiling

All I could hear were the sounds God’s world makes

by Larry Kinard

A new moon, an orange crescent, smiled as it settled into an ink black flat lake. It was the moon and a whisper from Marty that made me stop. You should have been there. On most nights at our lake home, after Marty has settled in bed, I go sit outside on our west-facing deck […]

Why Are You Doing This?

A pilgrim's gift of hindsight

by Daniel H. Martins

After five years on the job as bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Springfield (Illinois), I was due for a sabbatical in 2016. A combination of factors led to a decision that placed me in St Jean Pied de Port, France, at the foot of the Pyrenees, on the evening of August 12, ready to […]

The Nature of Care

Claiming the church’s voice in the culture of caregiving

What is the nature of care? Do we “give” care generously, or is it a list of tasks to squeeze into the day? Is there a difference between “care for” and “care about”? Is it a job? A relationship? All of these choices can be true. Caregiving is complex, and no two situations are identical. […]

Like a Little Child

Humbly reaching for God’s hand

by Lizzy Cook

“Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands […]

Sharing the End-of-Life Sojourn

A profound call on body and spirit

by Tracy Hilts

Six weeks after my mother died from abdominal cancer I looked at a picture of a woman standing at a church podium. Clothes several sizes too big hung off a tall, gaunt woman whose tear-streaked face and reddened eyes overfilled with yet more tears. For a moment I wondered who I was looking at. Have […]

Prayers for medical procedures

Fasting before a colonoscopy or surgery is a common part of medical procedures. Of course, fasting has a long and distinguished history in the Christian tradition. Being a little scared before a medical intervention, particularly one that involves vulnerable parts of ourselves, also has a long history. Part of the preparation for a medical procedure […]

7 Spiritual Practices

Cultivating our faith life is an important part of wellness. Here are a few ways to gain new perspective of yourself, others and God throughout the year. Try praying at different times during the day. You may notice that you pray differently at different times of the day. Laughter and rejoicing need to be a part […]

The Gift of Spiritual Direction

Listening well, digging deep, and letting go

by Mary Chase-Ziolek

How do we feed our souls? How do we find what we thirst for most deeply? Over the past 25 years, my life has been nourished through the practice of spiritual direction. Once a month I meet with a spiritual director who listens to me and helps me to pay attention to the movement of […]

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 […]

Being Enough

Receiving the gift of being God's beloved child

by Laura Bratton

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  —Genesis 1:27 Am I enough? Or am I “less than” others? I struggled with this question from the time I was diagnosed with an eye disease as a child. As I adjusted to becoming […]

Faithful to Empower

Health ministry in every congregation

by J. Elisha Burke

Since its inception in 1899, the Baptist General Convention of Virginia (BGCVA) has remained faithful to its educational mission through outreach that empowers and equips children, youth, women, and men to make and maintain healthy holistic lifestyle choices. The conference is a nonprofit organization representing 1,000 African American churches and 29 regional associations in urban, […]

Book Review

Embracing the Body

Finding God in Our Flesh and Bone

reviewed by Susan Martins Miller

Tara M. Owens’s thesis that our bodies teach us about God is exquisite because of its tender vulnerability in showing us her personal story of the fear, shame and guilt that kept her from listening to—and learning from—her own bodily experience. “Our bodies are an integral part of our selves and tell us what we […]

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 […]