The C Word

A review of a new film on the body’s natural defenses against cancer

reviewed by Lauren Hales

Understanding the battle against cancer has, in the United States particularly, become a discussion of treatment—seldom of prevention. “The C Word,” a film directed by Meghan L. O’Hara, digs into what it means to use the body’s natural defenses against cancer. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, the film showcases the twin narratives of both Dr. David […]

Finding Room For A Furry Friend

The benefits of including pets in patient care

by Mary Boland

On first glance, animals in hospitals may seem counter-intuitive. A dog could carry germs, and bites and scratches can cause all sorts of mayhem. In truth, these concerns are not as well-founded as once thought. While allergies can be a challenge with some patients, it has been proven that animals can provide aid in rehabilitative […]

Dis-abling Pain

Ways of Thinking about--and Dealing With--Chronic Pain

by Michelle M. Lelwica

When I told my chiropractor, who knows I’m a religion professor, that I was writing a paper on chronic pain for an academic conference, she gave me a funny look. “What’s chronic pain got to do with religion?” she asked. But before I had a chance to respond, she began answering her own question. Some […]

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 […]

How to Think Like a Doctor

by Nia Zalamea

Preparing for a visit to the doctor is what I imagine prepping for a blind date might be like: how to tell them everything that matters to you in 10 minutes or less. Getting the most out of that small amount of time isn’t only important for you, it’s critical for the medical team as […]

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 […]

The Power of Empathy

Design Thinking and the Drive to Innovate

by Sarah Holland Bacot

Being in a hospital is a scary and stressful experience for almost anyone, but especially for children. Pediatric wards and children’s hospitals work to make the experience as stable and welcoming as possible, but it is often difficult to change the procedures, much less the equipment required to perform them. An MRI machine, for example, […]

A Time for HIV/AIDS Ministry

A Biblical Basis for Action in Your Community

by Marvin McMickle

Some people are infected with the virus while others are affected by the suffering their loved ones must endure. Churches must find a way to provide ministry and support for both groups: the infected and the affected. Ministering to People who are Infected with HIV/AIDS “Unclean!” That is the word with which persons living with […]


A Critical Moment for HIV/AIDS in Africa

Q&A with Elias Bongmba

by John Shorb

A Critical Moment for HIV/AIDS in Africa: Q&A with Elias Bongmba BY JOHN SHORB Elias Bongmba holds the Harry and Hazel Chavanne Chair in Christian Theology and Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University and is the author of Facing a Pandemic: The African Church and the Crisis of HIV/AIDS. Church Health Reader spoke with […]

The Power of Prevention

by Bonnie Mixon McCrickard

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you…for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” – Jeremiah 29:7 ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your […]

The Sick Poor and the Origins of Medical Charity

Classical antiquity had no hospitals, foundations or philanthropic charities. Christianity changed all that.

by Gary Ferngren

Few descriptions of epidemic disease are better known than that of Thucydides. In a well-known passage that became a model for later writers, Thucydides describes the plague of Athens in 430 BC, which he himself had experienced in a city that was overcrowded with citizens of outlying villages who had taken refuge inside the walls […]

Book Review

Medicine and Religion

A Historical Introduction

reviewed by Mary Boland

Gary Ferngren’s intriguing book, Medicine & Religion: A Historical Introduction, may have the potential to turn away even the most formidable of readers with a laden title and a dark cover suggesting a heavy academic read. This assumption, however, proves inaccurate as Ferngren creates a historical, informative, and wholly accessible text for any interested reader. […]


Understanding the Exposome

Q&A with Paul Juarez

by Bradley Gao

Dr. Paul G. Juarez is professor of preventive medicine and director of the Research Center on Health Disparities, Equity and the Exposome at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. He spoke with Bradley Gao about how his research is utilizing community-focused data to impact underserved communities, and how understanding the “exposome” is crucial to […]

Book Review

Reclaiming the Body

Christians and the Faithful Use of Modern Medicine

reviewed by Isabella Basco

Modern medicine is changing patients’ lives every-day for the better in today’s society. With the emergence of technology and innovation in this ever-changing society, it is easy to forget the role faith plays in the hospital rooms. But where does faith take a role in healthcare? How can we trust our religion as well as […]

Book Review

Soul of a Doctor

Harvard Medical Students Face Life and Death

reviewed by Shelby Ussery

The third chapter of this endearing book composed of essays by third-year Harvard medical students begins with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he reflects on the story of the Good Samaritan. “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will […]

Touched Twice Clinic

by Church Health Reader Editors

The congregation at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, is continually striving to find ways to “engage head, heart, and hands in love of God and neighbor.” One way they do this is by hosting an annual Touched Twice Clinic, which began last year. At this clinic, they transform the church into a […]

Book Review

Building Healthy Communities Through Medical-Religious Partnerships

reviewed by Bradley Gao

Drs. Hale and Bennett share personal stories and practical insights on how local congregations can become an educated, supportive community. With an approach that recognizes that body, mind and soul play a role in health, the authors champion the role that congregations can play in health education. The book first lays the rationale and groundwork […]

Churches Help Hospitals Move Upstream

by Susan Martins Miller

The “Upstream Story” has become a fable of our times to describe the modern healthcare system. Various versions exist online or in speeches, but the gist is the same. A fisherman discovers a person drowning in the river and takes the person to shore, only to discover more and more people in trouble. He can’t […]

A Mosque, a Church, and Neighborhood Health

Interfaith Connections for Life

by Lance Laird

In the recent political controversy over the Park 51 or “Ground Zero Mosque” in Manhattan, one fundamental assumption of its opponents is that what people do in mosques is very different than what people do in churches. Pundits and ideologues among Christians and Muslims like to separate these religious groups behind neat lines in the […]

Carin’ and Sharin’

Gwendolyn Brown creates connection and community for underserved women with cancer

by Susan Martins Miller

I can sell snake oil when it comes to this group,” Gwendolyn Brown says of Carin’ and Sharin’, a Memphis ministry to women with breast cancer. When Jamie first received a cancer diagnosis, she did not want to do the recommended treatment. So she went to another oncologist, and another, and another. They all said […]

When Faith and Cancer Collide

Hope and Community

by Bill Holmes

I am focused on living with cancer, not dying from it. I choose as my metaphor “negotiating” with cancer, not battling it, as I know that there is great power in rapidly dividing cells. Cure may not come, but I will live or die as a whole person while giving thanks to the God of […]

Health Promotors Lead Congregations into Healing

Congregational Health Promoters in Memphis, TN

by Church Health Reader Editors

Mrs. Geraldine Pollard of Koinonia Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee has been concerned about the diabetics in her congregation. As a Congregational Health Promoter she has the tools to do something. Geraldine worked with the American Diabetes Association to bring to her church “Project Power”, a program that helps congregations educate, organize and motivate their […]

Gospel and Good People, Getting Together

Wednesday Night Ministry at Pacific Beach UMC

by Church Health Reader Editors

On a random evening in 1993, the single mother of a toddler addressed the church council at Pacific Beach United Methodist Church, humbly asking if she could start a one-night-per-week food ministry. The woman explained that she was once homeless and wanted to give back to the community that helped her make it. Then, she […]


The Theological Significance of the Body

Q&A with Joel Shuman

by John Shorb

Joel Shuman is professor of theology at King’s College in Pennsylvania and with Keith Meador is the co-author of Heal Thyself: Spirituality, Medicine, and the Distortion of Christianity. Shuman spoke with Church Health Reader about the Christian tradition and contemporary culture. John Shorb: How did you become interested in medicine, health and wellness and how it […]

The Cosmic Side of OCD

by Robert St. Hilaire

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) comes in many different forms. For me, back when my anxieties were at their height, my struggle was often with double-checking: making sure, again and again, the car doors were locked, or the iron unplugged, or the back windows securely shut. At other times, however, it was a hyper-concern with cleanliness: over-scrubbing […]

Book Review

When Sickness Heals—The Place of Religious Belief in Healthcare

Book Review

reviewed by Andrew Gienapp

Is it possible to find meaning and purpose in the suffering—and even in the death—caused by an illness? This is the central question Siroj Sorajjakool explores in When Sickness Heals: The Place of Religious Belief in Healthcare. In his book, Sorajjakool argues that although suffering and death are spiritually traumatic, each experience has a place […]

The New Orleans Faith Health Alliance

What Hurricane Katrina taught me about the future of health care

by Janet DiLeo Wade

The morning before Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, my youngest son Jeff and I packed our family’s most precious possessions in our Toyota 4-Runner and along with our dog Corky joined the exodus of thousands of people to safer ground. As the platoon of cars crossed the Mississippi border, I approached […]

Beyond Reform

Three Ways to Transform Health Care without Dividing the Church

by Scott Morris

The current climate around health care ensures that the topic remains front and center on the stage of public debate. Both polarities of the political spectrum claim to have fair and reasonable approaches, but dissatisfaction with those answers raises the issue of whether anyone is asking the right questions—including the church. The church should be […]

Spinning in the ICU

by Susan Palwick

My friend Michelle lies on a bed in the ICU, her head thrown back, mouth open, breathing audibly. Two days ago, when she was disconnected from the ventilator, no one knew how long she’d keep breathing. She has pneumonia, so the nurses say it probably won’t be long now, and they say that’s a blessing. […]


Looking Back: HIV/AIDS and the Church

Q&A with John A. Bartlett

by Sarah Ranson

John A. Bartlett, MD is professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health at Duke University Medical Center. Dr. Bartlett also serves as Co-Director of the Center for AIDS Research at Duke University and spoke with Church Health Reader about the thirty years of experience with HIV/AIDS and how the church […]


Facing the HIV/AIDS Pandemic

Q&A with Kimberly Vrudny

by John Shorb

While reading about the great plague of 1347, Kimberly Vrudny noticed striking parallels between that plague and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, especially in relation to the church’s quietism. Vrudny, who is a professor of systematic theology and project director for HIV/AIDS initiatives at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, knew she had to […]


Christian Sacrifice and Health Care Reform

Q&A with Karl Watts

by John Shorb

Karl Watts, MD, is the founder and president of Genesis World Mission, a Boise, Idaho faith-based organization meeting the medical needs of underserved populations locally and internationally. He continues to volunteer as a physician at the clinic regularly and speaks on national and international health care issues. Church Health Reader spoke with him about his […]


Medical Outreach in the Early Church

Q&A with Gary Ferngren

by John Shorb

Gary Ferngren, author of Medicine and Health Care in Early Christianity, is professor of history at Oregon State University. He discusses the ways that Christians have practiced compassion toward the sick since the days of the Early Church. Church Health Reader explore these foundations for Christian health care in this interview. John Shorb: Your book […]


Kissing the Sick

Q&A with Amanda Porterfield

by John Shorb

Amanda Porterfield is the Robert A. Spivey Professor of Religion at Florida State University in Tallahassee. She is the author of Healing in the History of Christianity (Oxford, 2005), and served as the president of the American Society of Church History in 2001. She talked with Church Health Reader about the history of Christianity and healing. […]

Book Review

Not All of Us are Saints

A Doctor's Journey with the Poor

reviewed by Sarah Stoneking

Not All of Us Are Saints begins with the tale of a midnight pursuit between two men: one, drunken and homeless, and the other, white-coated and desperate. The drunken man is afraid of what will happen if he drops his one source of comfort and respite – alcohol – and the white-coated man, his physician, […]


Medicine as Vocation

Q&A with Daniel Sulmasy

by John Shorb

Daniel Sulmasy, MD, is author of The Healer’s Calling: A Spirituality for Physicians and Other Health Care Professionals and The Rebirth of the Clinic: An Introduction to Spirituality in Health Care. He is the Kilbride-Clinton Professor of Medicine and Ethics in the Department of Medicine and Divinity School at the University of Chicago and associate […]


Health Care & the Early Christians

Q&A with Hector Avalos

by John Shorb

Hector Avalos, professor of religious studies at Iowa State University, has written two books on the Bible and health: Illness and Health Care in the Ancient Near East: The Role of the Temple in Greece, Mesopotamia, and Israel (1995) and Health Care and the Rise of Christianity (1999). His most recent work focuses on disability […]


On this Foundation

Q&A with Mary Chase-Ziolek

by John Shorb

Since 1999, Mary Chase-Ziolek has taught at North Park University and directed the faith-and-health program that combines the disciplines of health care, theology, and spirituality. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she serves as a resource person for Covenant churches interested in developing ministries of health. Dr. Chase-Ziolek has published extensively on congregationally-based health ministries […]