Health program planned for local churches

By LEA RIZZO, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 4/1/17

The Walker County Health Action Partnership’s faith-based priority group is working to introduce a Congregational Health Program to churches across the county.

Debbie Duke of Samford University’s Center for Faith and Health and director of the Congregational Health Program will be speaking Thursday at Los Reyes in downtown Jasper about developing a health ministry in local congregations. The meeting is open to the public and will last from noon until 1 p.m.

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Health program planned for local churches

Posted

The Walker County Health Action Partnership’s faith-based priority group is working to introduce a Congregational Health Program to churches across the county.

Debbie Duke of Samford University’s Center for Faith and Health and director of the Congregational Health Program will be speaking Thursday at Los Reyes in downtown Jasper about developing a health ministry in local congregations. The meeting is open to the public and will last from noon until 1 p.m.

“The goal of the Health Action Partnership is to improve the overall health of Walker County,” explained Shannon Williamson, chairwoman for the faith-based priority group. “The Congregational Health Program works to implement health through mind, body and spirit. It teaches you the different aspects of how people can start a nursing health ministry in a congregation in a church. It’s allowing the congregation to become better acquainted with each other and their health needs.”

The Congregational Health Program will also provide participating congregations with consultation and support in developing and sustaining a health ministry; provide resource materials and program ideas; facilitate the administration of a congregational health assessment; and offer continuing education programs related to Congregational Health Ministry.

Congregational Health Ministries provide opportunities for congregation members to learn how to make healthy lifestyle decisions and improved awareness and access to shared church and community resources.

Williamson, along with other Capstone employees and people from local churches, recently went through parish nurse, or faith community nursing, training through the congregational and faith-based program at Samford.

Samford’s website describes parish nursing, or faith community nursing, as a “practice that focuses on the intentional care of the spirit, while promoting wholistic health and preventative care.

Most importantly, faith community nurses integrate faith and health to help parishioners lead healthier lives, physically and spiritually.”

The parish nurse training took place over two weekends, one in February and the second in March.

“During the training, we discussed areas such as helping congregational members who may be suffering from mental health issues, spiritual care in times of grief and elderly care,” explained Beth Hartley, nursing and quality manager. “Parish nursing is really a lot about meeting spiritual needs of a patient.”

She added that it was important to also educate congregation members on how to address certain issues.

“This area is very dear to my beliefs and what I practice and my goals as a nurse,” Hartley said.

Congregational Health Ministries focuses on reclaiming the church’s role in promoting health, healing and wholeness.

“A long time ago when we got sick, we didn’t go to the doctor. We went to the church and people laid hands on you and prayed for you. Parish nursing is bringing it all full circle and encompassing all those aspects — the mind, body and spirit,” Williamson said. “It’s a wonderful ministry to have in a church and a wonderful outreach in the congregation.”

“It is trying to make people aware of the need to take care of ourselves emotionally, physically and mentally,” said Jennifer Atkins, an outreach coordinator for Capstone Rural Health.

She added that she thinks people are now more aware of the importance of a well-balanced lifestyle but that maybe they don’t know where to go or how to get started.

Because this is a faith-based program, if it can get started in local churches and educate people and spread from there, the effects of the program can be very beneficial for the county, Atkins said.

During Thursday’s meeting, Duke will speak on the framework for the Congregational Health Ministries, which includes health promotion, preventing disease and responding to the problems and needs that affect health and healing. She will also give information on how to bring this free ministry into local congregations.

“This is a wonderful way to improve health because we are very rich in churches here in the county. And it’s an area that has been kind of overlooked as far as health goes,” said Williamson, who is also an outreach coordinator for Capstone Rural Health. “I figure that we’ll see a lot of improvement in the health aspects of congregations that want to participate in this initiative.”