Several years ago I had an opportunity to visit Westminster by-the-Sea Presbyterian Church in Daytona Beach Shores, Florida, for a Sunday worship service. I had always enjoyed my visits to this church, knowing that I would hear outstanding music and an excellent sermon by their senior pastor, the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Sumner. But I also heard another important message that day. Dr. Sumner spoke of the need for parishioners to attend to their physical health as well as their spiritual well-being. And on this particular Sunday, there would be an opportunity to do this by taking advantage of a free screening for skin cancer that a local dermatologist would be providing immediately after the worship service.
Programs on the prevention and early detection of cancer have a special meaning for this congregation that worships just a few hundred yards from the beach. Within 18 months, two young men in the congregation, both in their 30s, had died of melanoma. These deaths motivated the congregation not only to spread the word among members and friends about the importance of early detection of skin cancer, but also to join in sponsoring an annual, community-wide event that raises funds for a foundation that supports research on melanoma.
This cancer screening was just one part of the church’s Body, Mind and Soul program, a ministry still going strong after more than 20 years. It started when a member of the congregation attended a lay health education course sponsored by a local hospital and nearby university. She had no experience or training in health care, but she was able to acquire the knowledge and skills to launch a health ministry. Working with local health institutions and providers, this program regularly sponsors health screenings and informational sessions on a variety of timely health topics. Although the leadership for Body, Mind and Soul has changed many times over the years, interest in the program has never waned, in large measure because of the strong commitment of Dr. Sumner and the members of the congregation, who have witnessed its tremendous impact on the health of the congregation and community.
W. Daniel Hale, Ph.D., leadership member of the Presbyterian Health Network, a network of the Presbyterian Health, Education & Welfare Association
Let us pray:
Dear Creator God, the Bible tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made! We are amazed that we are created in your image. Help us to be aware of the needs around us. And, if our own needs—caring for a child or a parent, or our own health needs—are great, send angels of mercy to offer relief or respite care. As congregations seek to care for one another, help us to feel the presence of your Holy Spirit to inspire and to encourage. Through Jesus Christ, who helped people to feel whole again. Amen.