Gathering For Wellness and Healing
*By Melissa Hinnen
LAKE JUNALUSKA, September 21, 2008— "What about my child?" Sam Dixon, top executive, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) asked the 186 clergy, parish nurses, and others who have gathered in Lake Junaluska, NC for the Empowering Health Ministries Conference.
Dixon opened the conference telling the story of a woman in Guatemala who, after hearing that the clinic had closed and could not help anyone else, waited for hours until everyone left except for the clinic volunteers. Holding out her sick baby, she asked the volunteers, "What about my child?"
The conference, sponsored by the General Board of Global Ministries and the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits, gives participants tools for mobilizing their local churches and annual conferences to actively incorporate the Wesleyan tradition for holistic wellness.
Through workshops, plenary sessions, networking and worship, participants will spend the next three days exploring ways to address the health needs of people in local communities and throughout the world. Dixon reminded them of the ways United Methodists are reaching out through the Global Health Initiative and striving to eradicate the diseases of poverty. At the same time, he asserted, "All is not well in health in the United States . . . when people must choose between purchasing a gallon of milk, a gallon of gas, or diabetes medicine."
Responding to Those in Need of Healing
Dr. Vance P. Ross, executive at the General Board of Discipleship, connected Dixon's message to Matthew 15: 21-28. Like the Canaanite woman who repeatedly asked Jesus to help her daughter, too many in our society are in need of healing but are ignored. With powerful preaching, Ross challenged the gathering to view the woman in the story as a hero and to follow her example for how to be agents of change for the current health care system.
Those who are committed to holistic wellness must be consistent in their message and courageous enough to demand health coverage for everyone. He urged the group to advocate for the sick and insist that political and church leaders persist in their efforts for healing. Through the holistic love of God through Christ, Ross "put a rub on" the conference attendees, anointing them for the healing of the world.
Following opening worship, a dinner sponsored by the Clergy Health Initiative of the Duke Divinity School encouraged jurisdiction networking. Guests shared successes and challenges of their health programs. Ministries range from local churches incorporating the needs of families dealing with autism to building conference wide faith community nurse networks.
For some, this is the first time attending the health conference but many have attended the annual event for years. According to Patricia Magyar, UMCOR Health executive, the number of attendees has more than doubled since the first conference in 2004. With more than 180 registrants, this is the largest group and the second year the event is at full capacity. In addition to plenary sessions and electives, attendees have a choice of four distinct tracks to strengthen and evaluate health ministries. The conference empowers the church community to provide a wellness service that is an effective ministry tool to serve its congregants in mind, body and spirit.
To connect with a network of United Methodist faith community nurses, join the online discussion group by submitting your information here.
* Melissa Hinnen is the staff writer for UMCOR communications