Grant helps church ministry ‘integrate faith and health’

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Grant helps church ministry ‘integrate faith and health’

Feb. 1, 2008  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0792}

An e-Review Feature
By Steven Skelley**

When Sara Kelly attended the Older Adult Ministry Conference in Lake Junalaska, N.C., and heard about a grant to help churches start new programs, she couldn’t wait to get back home to Apopka, Fla., and tell everyone.

Registered nurse Judy Davis checks the blood pressure of a member volunteering for First United Methodist Church of Apopka’s tutoring program. It’s part of Davis’ role as parish nurse for the church, a ministry made possible by an Older Adult Ministries grant from the General Board of Discipleship. Photo courtesy of First United Methodist Church, Apopka. Photo #08-0741.

“We had a dear lady in our congregation who was an RN and was feeling the call to ministry, and I am the chairman of the senior adult ministry counsel at First United Methodist Church of Apopka,” she said. “Half of our church is over 50 years old, so we want to equip ourselves to meet the needs of those beyond 50.”

Kelly took the grant information to her pastor, the Rev. Jim Thomas, registered nurse Judy Davis, church members Joyce Ayers and Virginia Clark who have experience writing grants, and the senior adult ministry counsel, and it was received with excitement. They decided to launch a parish nurse ministry at the church.

Ayers and Clark submitted the grant to the United Methodist Committee on Older Adult Ministries of the General Board of Discipleship. In Spring 2007 grants “to assist senior adults across the globe” were awarded to 26 United Methodist older adult ministries, including First United Methodist Church, Apopka, which received $1,250.

“We are so grateful to the Southeast Jurisdiction for those funds. I’m excited for all those churches,” Kelly said.

The grant covered the entire cost of the parish nurse training course Davis took at Florida Hospital.

Davis accepted the church’s parish nurse position in early summer and started working with the church’s senior ministries team to establish a health ministries team, chaired by Ayers, that’s responsible for activities related to congregational health. 

In October 2007 Davis says she officially “started my adventure as a parish nurse at First United Methodist Church.”

“I am an integrator of faith and health,” she says. “I’m also a health educator, personal health counselor, referral agent and liaison, health advocate, and developer of support groups. I work and develop programs for all ages. I have office hours and am available 24 hours a day.”

Kelly sees the health outreach as a continuation of Wesleyan ministry to society.

“Wesley changed his world by reaching out. It begins with awareness,” she said. “We need to be aware of the needs of those in our church and also in our community. Then we need to meet those needs. God has no hands but our hands, so we have to do whatever we can.”

Davis says the church now has “Helping Hands” volunteers who transport members to doctor appointments and relieve caretakers who need to leave home for several hours.

She has been a “second set of ears” during appointments with doctors and hospital social workers. She locates equipment and caregivers for members. She says she sometimes “just listens to those who need to share and express their feelings.”

A tutoring program at First United Methodist Church, Apopka, is just one of the ministries coordinated by the church’s newly formed health ministries team. Photo courtesy of First United Methodist Church, Apopka. Photo #08-0742.

The health counsel is planning programs for all ages every month. The Blood Mobile was in the church parking lot Jan. 13 for both worship services. Tutoring sessions for students began Jan. 16 and will be held each Wednesday, 3:30-5:30 p.m. CPR training began Jan. 26.

For Lent, Davis is conducting an eight-week class called “Forgive To Live,” and in March, there will be a women’s program given by Hospice of the Comforter on the “Five Wishes” and a men’s dinner and program on “Signs and Symptoms of Stroke and Cardiac Problems.”

“In May, we are looking into having a churchwide line dancing or square dance,” Davis added. “We are also thinking about holding back-to-school health checkups in August, offering flu shots in October and baby-sitting and nutrition classes for the youth.”

There will also be a CPR course so ushers will be trained in case there is ever an emergency during worship.

“Because of this grant, we have lots of stuff going on. It’s exciting!” Kelly said.

Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Orlando, Fla., received $2,000 for its Happy Hearts program, which provides a monthly educational and social gathering for older adults.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Skelley is a freelance writer based in Beverly Hills, Fla.

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