By Kaitlyn Brodar, PHW Intern
St. Philip’s Episcopal Church is a gold-level PHW congregation in Durham, North Carolina. While the health ministry team and pastors have promoted health in a wide variety of ways over the past few years, they are particularly proud of a new project: bathroom door signs. “I think this is a project that every little church in North Carolina can do,” said Beth Hammett, St. Philip’s health lead. The project uses plastic, magnetic sign holders (~$7 at most office supply stores) to display health information on the back of bathroom doors at the church. So far, they have used their signs to showcase all kinds of health information, including mental health concerns, how to use an AED, and where they are located in the church, and the Senior Health Insurance Information Program. “People go to the bathroom, and have no idea that they’re also being educated about their health!”
St. Philip’s also has a strong focus on mental health. They have hosted various discussion groups that have read books together on the topic of mental illness, and are in the process of adding more books on mental health to their church’s health library. St. Philip’s also hosted Dr. Harold Koenig, Duke University’s Director for the Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health, to speak about mental health and faith. Ms. Hammett remarked that, “Stress and mental illness are big issues in the church. Most people have at least had a family member or friend that has experienced mental illness.”
Their church is located next to Urban Ministries of Durham, which serves individuals who are homeless or in need of a meal. St. Philip’s frequently sends volunteer teams to serve meals and provide other services. Ms. Hammett explained that it’s not uncommon to walk outside of their church and step into a conversation with someone experiencing mental health issues. These interactions have galvanized the church’s efforts to address mental illness both within and outside of their congregation. St. Philip’s has also worked closely with Faith Connections on Mental Illness, a fantastic resource for other churches interested in mental health,
Ms. Hammett has enjoyed watching the connection between faith and health strengthen over time at St. Philip’s. “People didn’t really know about our work at first, but now everyone seems to know who we are and why this is important.” She is especially excited about a new project that will be starting this year— chair yoga for seniors. They plan to use their 2016 PHW Mini Grant funds to bring in a yoga instructor to regularly teach classes. Classes will focus on improving strength and flexibility, as well as minimizing risk associated with falls or other injuries.
If your congregation would like to put your faith into action by prioritizing the health of your members, please visit the PHW website at www.healthandwholeness.org.