The Balm in Gilead Inc. highlights congregational health ministries from across the United States by presenting the “Best Practice Awards” at their 10th Annual Healthy Churches Conference. The St. Paul’s A.M.E. Zion Church of Buffalo, NY, where the Rev. Amos Goodwine Jr is pastor, was selected as a recipient of one of the Healthy Churches 2023 Best Practice Awards for doing exceptional work around health promotion and prevention, working to change health outcomes among their church members and the community they serve.
St. Paul's health ministry provides community education, health counseling, and health information for its members and visitors alike. CPR classes, Congregational Health Promoter (CHP) training, a space for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, providing food from our “silent food pantry,” which sits as an extension of other referred community-based food pantries, while assisting nursing assistant students with basic needs, highlights some of their activities.
The health ministry is staffed by a trained Faith Community Nurse (FCN) and congregational members known as Congregational Health Promoters who are interested in the overall health of its members. Building healthy relationships and offering a listening ear, they provide a source of comfort and knowledge of community resources that can assist those they touch. Many of these are caregivers needing some support and direction in providing care to their loved ones; the CHPs are ready to help, along with the lead nurse who keeps the information supplied up to date. All visitors are met by one of our team members, providing a hearty welcome and needed items for a rich worship experience.
The base of our Faith Health ministry is the ability of the FCN to bring their knowledge of the physical body, mind, and spirit to those within their faith belief system, as we know our FCN is good at teaching about disease progression, treatment options, and the possible or inevitable consequences. With the use of the items in her toolbox, the use of active listening, asking open-ended questions, and making a connection bolsters relationships and trust, applying a sense of worthiness to the individual being non-judgmental. True caring must be shown for the individual to trust the health ministry team with their innermost feelings, experiences, and desires. Caring for individuals, groups, families, and our surrounding community places us in a position of granted trust that can be maintained if it does not break the privacy of one-on-one conversations. (The church grapevine is real!) Privacy must be maintained for a relationship to grow and flourish and for the ultimate assistance of the individual. However, broken trust can lead to losing the relationship and the individuals not receiving the assistance they need. The trained faith ministry members are aware of this, but untrained members of other churches will reap repercussions. FCNs are mandatory reporters of abuse and are required to inform authorities of their knowledge. This might seem like a breach of trust to some, but individual safety is of the utmost importance. If the conversations are leading toward such information, the toolbox will have a step-by-step approach to acquiring and reporting the information without jeopardizing individual safety.
St. Paul’s Faith Health Ministry brings hope and light to a world that seems despairing. How, you may ask? Why by being the eyes, ears, hands, feet, and heart of the one they represent by their faith to the world? Showing the last and least compassion, support, and direction, being that advocate while empowering the voice lost due to life circumstances. The results of these actions can allow the lost and least to devise a different outlook and/or perspective on the community/society and may turn their disappointment into satisfaction, fulfilling their needs as they give thanks for this day and all future days in their life to God.
Congratulations, St. Paul’s of Buffalo, NY!
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