By Lisa Carson, Director of Church Health Center Wellness Services
Publisher’s Note: Bringing bold leadership to culture can be a harrowing mission. In a secular America it’s often assumed that health care providers must be “spiritually sterile”. The Church Health Center in Memphis, Tennessee is one of the best examples I’ve found that has prayerfully built a strong model of integrating the Christian faith into a community wellness service. They prove that effective lasting results and high member satisfaction are a result of centering faith into the very core of all they do. Take a tour and you’ll see they demonstrate the spirit of “InteGREAT!” -Brad Bloom, Publisher
There are hundreds of fitness and wellness services across the country; Church Health Center Wellness is different. With a membership population comprised largely of lower income middle-aged African American females, it is noticeable that we are different; we are the wellness center for everyBODY. Every shape, every size, every color, every creed - our members join to improve fitness, but they stay for the community of friends and family that provide support and a sense of belonging.
As you enter into the building of Church Health Center Wellness, you may notice the scripture of Micah 6:8 … And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Faith is alive within our walls. It is not simply the scripture noted, nor is it the artful banners that display the days of creation or the virtues of Colossians, or the background chatter of an impromptu morning prayer of praise being lifted to the Lord; it is the interconnectivity of all these things and more that makes Church Health Center Wellness a place for faith and health to be lived out.
In 1926, Frederick Buechner wrote "The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." This quote is descriptive of many of the Church Health Center employees who work daily to met the needs of the members we serve. It is being part of a called workforce that means rising to a higher purpose and putting faith into action. It means serving our members with compassion, kindness and humility. Although we do not take an evangelical approach with our members, we strive to become a place our members can find hope in their despair and healing for their bodies and spirits. Part of the beauty of Church Health Center Wellness is likened to the Biblical lesson of the Good Samaritan. As a called workforce, we simply act as the hands and feet of Jesus to provide a safe place for an individual to encounter the healing effects of our wellness services without being judged. Often it is the subtle actions that create these effects - a spoken hello, a smile, a simple touch, a shared conversation with active listening, a prayer exchanged, or a word of encouragement. We are a place where we all have a similar goal - to be healthier in mind, body and spirit.
Church Health Center is fundamentally about the church. With a cross in our logo, we actively work with churches to equip lay leaders with materials and empower them to create health ministry in their own congregations. This action allows more individuals to become affiliated with all of Church Health Center services and provides for the sharing of our Wellness programs and services. In our programming, we utilize tangible expressions of faith.
We utilize scripture and Christian devotions as part of our exercise, nutrition education and kitchen classes. Although many devotional writings are utilized, daily thoughts are often expressed from Have a Blessed Day, a daily devotional written by our own employee, Butch Odom. Our nutrition curriculum is written with scriptural reference to the abundance of God’s many blessings.
As a called workforce, we simply act as the hands and feet of Jesus to provide a safe place for an individual to encounter the healing effects of our wellness services without being judged.
Tap each of the photos below to read how the Church Health Center has impacted the lives of these members:
As a resource to the community, we provide a Thursday noon-time prayer service. This is a time of reflection, prayer and song open and available to staff, members, patients and the community. Staff members are asked to share a simple reflection of faithful meaning. The service consists of a time for intercessory prayer and the distribution of prayer shawls that are distributed upon request to individuals who are sick or hospitalized or in the need of comfort during a difficult time. These prayer shawls are created in our Sit and Knit class and in external small groups.
Faith is alive within our walls. Church Health Center Wellness is a place for faith and health to be lived out.
As a single aspect of our Model for Healthy Living, Faith Life interconnects with the other six, Emotional Health, Family and Friends, Nutrition, Movement, Work and Medical. The model is used as a tool to aid members in setting goals so that when all aspects are balanced, more joy is found and members can experience wholeness in mind, body and spirit.
This story is part of the August/September 2015 issue focusing on ideas around the theme InteGREAT! Seamlessly weave faith and fitness into a fantastic lifestyle.