St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church in Raleigh has been hard at work promoting health and faith. The health ministry at St. John AME was started when Senior Pastor Allen Warren saw a need to keep congregants informed on health, wellness, and nutrition. For nine years now, the health ministry has been providing education and resources to not only their congregation, but also fellow church and community members. Helen Moody, one of the co-leads of the health ministry, described how it began: “We formulated a committee, and one of our goals was to make sure if someone became ill in the congregation during service or any meetings, that there would be people who have some type of training that could handle the situation and direct it to EMS if it was needed.”
Elaine Hall and Helen Moody co-lead the health ministry at St. John AME. Helen is a retired nurse of 50 years and began her work with the health ministry after volunteering with a local public health organization called Project Direct. Elaine Hall is a retired nurse and dental hygienist. She has worked with school systems, jails, and private practices, and she has been working with the health ministry for about 3 years now.
One of the main initiatives that the health ministry has launched is a six-week educational course on diabetes. This course has been well attended by not only members of St. John AME’s congregation, but also members of other churches in the area. They have hosted continuous health screenings, workshops on enrolling for healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and a community health fair. Beyond the fact that these services are important for understanding how to maintain physical health, they also promote healthy conversations to nurture mental health. As Helen says, “the days we do the blood pressure and blood sugar testing, people not only want the testing, but sometimes they come in and just want to talk to someone they’re comfortable around.. I think that’s a real help, not only for the testing, but for their mental health.”
Another important aspect of St. John AME’s health ministry is their response to emergency care. Helen recalls a time a few weeks ago when a church member was concerned about their 90 year old mother: “She said her mother was holding a cup and suddenly dropped it and she did not know what to do. I asked her if she had taken her mother’s blood pressure and she told me that she had, and that it was not in her mother’s usual blood pressure range. I told her to keep a close eye on her and to take her to the emergency room immediately if she saw any other unusual signs. She ended up taking her mother to the ER and discovered that she had experienced a small stroke.” It is often hard to recognize the signs and symptoms of chronic diseases and emergency medical conditions such as strokes, heart attacks, and allergic reactions, but Elaine and Helen emphasized the importance of education and awareness so members know when to consult a medical professional. Elaine has purchased posters on the common signs of a stroke to display around the church building. The posters help to educate members of the church and to encourage them to visit their doctors regularly.
Thank you Helen and Elaine for giving us a glimpse into the fantastic work of the St. John AME health ministry. We are excited to see what’s next!