Monday, December 28, 2009

2009 Report of the Saint Matthew Parish Health Ministry

Here's a report I've written for submission to our congregation's annual meeting on January 31. It talks about the reason for even having a health ministry in a congregation and also the start we've made with one.
Parish Health Team Report for 2009
Pastor Mark Daniels

Why does a congregation need a health ministry, anyway?

Simply put, God cares about the health of people and calls the Church to care, too. Here are a few reasons for that:

First of all, the Bible says that the human body is God’s temple. When we care for our bodies and our health, we are, in another way, offering worship to our Maker and exercising good stewardship over God’s gift of life.

A parish health ministry may promote good stewardship of our bodies with things as basic as informational guidelines for preventing infectious diseases, holding blood pressure checks, and sponsoring talks by experts on topics such as weight management, hypertension, or diabetes.

A second reason for having a health ministry is that God cares about our bodies. When Jesus rose from the dead, He didn’t do so as some murky spirit; He arose bodily. He challenged the unbelieving Thomas to touch the wounds made by nails and thorns. In the Apostles’ Creed, we confess our belief that in Jesus Christ, we can look forward to “the resurrection of the body.”

A parish health ministry can underscore the unity of our bodies, minds, spirits, and emotions. Many studies demonstrate that when people’s faith is strong, they’re generally more physically healthy and psychologically happy and they have longer life expectancies. A parish health ministry can be a way of spreading the blessings of a relationship with Jesus Christ among the members of our congregation and the people of our community, making it a tool for spreading the good news of Jesus.

A third reason for a parish health ministry is that Jesus has told the Church to be involved in the same ministries He had while on the earth. Matthew 9:35 tells us about those ministries when it says that, “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.” Referring to the signs He performed pointing to His being God-in-the-flesh, Jesus says in the Gospel of John, “…the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father…” (John 14:12)

All people for whom we seek healing or healthy life styles will, of course, eventually die. We live in a fallen world. Like Jesus, our Lord, the most faithful people will also endure crosses. But even in people who don’t experience miracle cures, there is healing and strength provided when prayer is offered for them and when believers strive to live healthfully even in the midst of severe, sometimes fatal, ailments. Our word “salvation” in the English language is related to the word “salve,” a healing ointment. People who are healthy can better serve and love God and neighbor.

In a sense, Saint Matthew’s Parish Health Ministry began several years ago, when then-Vicar Janice Winters began to offer the healing service on the final Sunday of months with five Sundays in them. The response to that has been great, only increasing over time. I love it when we have the Service of Healing during our Sunday worship services.

In late 2008, I shared by belief that Saint Matthew would be a great candidate for a more deliberate parish health ministry, geared not just to healing from afflictions people were already experiencing, but to health practices as a priority of Christian faith.

The council encouraged me in this. I began reading books like The Parish Nurse: Providing a Minister of Health for Your Congregation by Pastor Granger Westberg (with Jill Westberg McNamara) and other resources. I also began talking with professionals who are part of Christian parish health ministry movement.

In early 2009, I met with Saint Matthew people who had expressed a willingness to at least consider being part of a parish health team at Saint Matthew. The materials that I had gathered were, frankly, overwhelming, and we weren’t certain about how to proceed.

That was when I was given the name of Rebecca Madine. She coordinates a support effort by Mount Carmel hospitals in Columbus geared specifically to help congregations with their parish health ministries. In April, Beth Morgan, Julie Mervis, and I met with her for the first time.

She was a huge help, encouraging us to start out simply. Among the first results of that good advice was the bulletin inserts dealing with a variety of health issues that so many have noticed and commented on in recent months.

Also resulting from our time with Rebecca are the posters and reminders regarding cleanliness and the importance of sneezing and coughing into our sleeves for curbing the spread of disease.

We also began offering hand sanitizer to those coming forward for Holy Communion during worship.

Next on the parish health team’s agenda, in 2010, is conducting a survey among members, asking you to let us know on what health-related issues we can most help you and the community.

Participants in the parish health team have been Beth Morgan, Julie Mervis, Angie McKee, and Laura Hopstetter.

If you would like to be involved, call the church office or simply turn up at our next announced meeting.
If you live in the Logan or Hocking County area and don't have a church home, feel free to check out Saint Matthew. You would be welcome.

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