The 12th-century theologian and author John of Salisbury used a version of the phrase:
“We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.”
Witnessing HMA change and adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, I think about this phrase. The early HMA founders and the current HMA board help us build healthy communities, develop our individual and communal spirituality, and introduce new ways for us to grow in our understanding and relationship to ourselves and the world through Zoom.
I have witnessed the evolution of health ministry in many ways. In my work with the Heal the Sick program at Wesley Theological Seminary, my ministry has also changed and adapted. Following my service on the HMA Board, I was determined to invite more people into health ministry in new ways. Beginning in 2014 at Wesley, we began training people on the foundations of health ministry through an in-person certificate program. Since 2017 Wesley’s 10-week health minister certificate has been online and now has trained over 300 people. Certificate graduates are from different professions and from all over the United States and several countries including Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, Angola, Senegal, the Philippines, Lithuania, and others. Over the last year during the pandemic, we developed an online learning community of Certificate graduates which meets bi-monthly via Zoom. I have added a mentoring component to the certificate so people can find their own voice and place in health ministry in their own time. I stand with you on the shoulders of the giants who preceded us. It is our hope to add to the health ministry’s legacy and the ongoing movement of the Spirit which guides us.
As I reflect further, I am humbled and encouraged by what God has accomplished. I think about all the people who have been introduced to and furthered their understanding of the connections between faith and health during the pandemic. I have seen lives changed. I have watched many of the health minister certificate graduates join HMA and eventually become new HMA board members. I have seen certificate graduates share their gifts and talents on recent HMA Zoominars. It has been inspiring to watch and see people grow.
There has been a wide array of human experiences felt during the pandemic. For some, COVID-19 has necessitated a pause in health ministry and faith community nursing when in-person ministry was not allowed, or for other personal or ministerial reasons. It has been a time for loss and grief, and some moved on to other ministries, while others are still mourning the loss. Some have stopped being in health ministry or faith community nursing altogether. Some have deepened their spirituality through prayer and reflection. Some have responded by adapting health ministry and faith community nursing online. We are all in different places and we are trying to find new understanding and meaning from the pandemic that has changed us and/or impacted us in some way. I pray that wherever you may be in your journey that you find peace in and through this pandemic.
During my Doctoral Ministry studies at Wesley Theological Seminary in 2017, I rediscovered the collective work and writings of Dr. Tom Droege, one of HMA’s founders. I found in Tom’s writings a rich history of the faith and health movement and great wisdom which still speaks to me today. I would like to share with you a daily practice that Tom Droege used each and every day so that you too might find or continue a daily spiritual practice to help guide you and your service to others and to God.
From Tom Droege’s online memorial in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Apr. 13, 2007,
“One hour each afternoon belonged to Dr. Thomas Droege. Alone. For that hour, the Lutheran pastor and theology professor put his work for the Carter Center’s Interfaith Health Program aside. He put his golf game and writing aside. He meditated. Ensconced in the sunroom of his Doraville house in Georgia and with a panoramic view of nature, he meditated while focused on two objects: a circular wall hanging — which drew him into its center — and a sculpture of a woman holding a baby. The concept of being held was very much a part of his theology, the overall concept of being held by the Creator, the Earth, people,” said his daughter Karla Droege of Sherman Oaks, Calif.”
I pray that each of us can mediate and reflect like Tom so that we can see where God has been in our lives, where God is currently in our lives, and where God is leading us. There will be days where we struggle. And yet, God is there walking alongside us. Other days we will find joy in how God is working in our lives as well as others.
I long and hope for the day to see all of you again at our in-person conferences so I can meet new friends and visit with longtime HMA friends. In the meantime let us continue to encourage and support each other in our faith and health ministry journey. May God bless you and keep you. Let’s continue to love and serve God and each other. Let us be good stewards of health and wellness. Let us search for new ways to add to the living legacy of health ministry. Together by contributing what we can, we can do great and mighty things with God!