On a recent Sunday, a visitor at the 16th Street Baptist Church (right) experienced firsthand the benefits of a congregational health ministry. During the service, the visitor suddenly became ill and needed medical assistance. Without hesitation, members of the church's newly established Congregational Health and Wellness Ministry coordinated efforts with the ushers and they were able to smoothly handle the situation without distraction or interruption of service. Following the incident, the pastor, Reverend Arthur Price, Jr., noted, "The situation was handled so seamlessly that those in the pulpit had no idea something was wrong until after the service was over."
Congregational Health ministries are about much more than responding to the occasional medical emergency; they are designed to reclaim the church's role in health, healing and wellness. In January 2012, the 16th Street Baptist Church joined more than 140 congregations across Alabama as a partner in the Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing's Congregational Health Program.
The program is committed to forming partnerships with faith communities of various denominations seeking to develop ministries that promote health and healing from a whole person perspective--body, mind and spirit.
Caring for the whole person is central to the philosophy of the Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing and the motivation for creating the Congregational Health Program. The late Ida V. Moffett, for whom the nursing school is named, once said, "The whole person must be considered in the process of healing. Healing includes attention to physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs. There is no physical condition that does not have an emotional reflection and there is no emotional state that does not have its physical counterpart." Moffett's vision for whole person care is perpetuated daily through this unique ministry.
Debbie Duke, director of the School of Nursing's Congregational Health program, noted that people of faith have long felt that there is a connection between health and faith; religion and medicine. Scripture supports this relationship between health, healing, wholeness and faith. In addition, scientific research conducted in the arena of faith's role in health and healing demonstrates the connection. "Our congregational health program provides essential tools and knowledge to assist churches in establishing wellness ministries," said Duke.
The Congregational Health Program empowers faith communities to embrace the issues that affect the lives of their congregations and communities. Dr. Cynthia Garrett, Health Ministry Leader and Parish Nurse at the 16th Street Baptist Church, said one of the first goals of the church's program was to form a team that would participate in a formal Health Ministry training and lead the church's efforts. In February, eight church members participated in training provided by Duke.
"Following the training, our team hit the ground running," said Garrett. "We have established a blood pressure ministry, participated in the Sickle Cell Walk-A-Thon and conducted a Health Fair where we served more than 80 individuals."
The church received positive feedback from participants in all of the health and wellness activities and benefits of the Congregational Health and Wellness program are already obvious. "As a result of the health fair, many congregation members have now secured primary care physicians, scheduled physicals, and requested more health education information," said Garrett.
The Congregational Health and Wellness Ministry at the 16th Street Baptist Church continues to make great strides as it develops its program. "Over the summer we will host a 'Screening Sunday' to screen members of the congregation to identify opportunities for education and improvement in order to plan future events around specific congregational needs," said Garrett. Additionally, during September the church will host a requested seminar to provide wellness information.
The 16th Street Baptist Church is just one example of the more than 100 partner churches across Alabama. The School of Nursing's congregational health program was established in 1999 and has served churches of all denominations since its inception.
If you are interested in learning more about partnering with Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing to establish a congregational health ministry at your church, please contact Debbie Duke at 205.726.4451.