Church defibrillator saves life of Sunday worshiper
March 2003

Lee Foley

 An article from the Cincinnati Enquirer provides all the justification anyone needs for the expense of a defibrillator at the work place, school or, in this case, church. Late last year, Ellis Barker had no more than sat down in his favorite pew at St. John's UCC in Newport, Ky., just across the river from Cincinnati, when he collapsed. According to the article, fellow parishioners, including good friend and nurse Lisa Daniels, began trying to help Barker, Daniels administering CPR and telling somebody to get the church's new and as yet unused defibrillator. She shocked him three times before the ambulance arrived. The doctor at the emergency room where Barker was taken said he likely would have died right there at the church, had it not been for Daniels' use of the defibrillator. The machines are pricey, about $3,500, but Ellis Barker sure thinks it is money well spent. They're virtually idiot-proof, so long as the operator stays calm and reads the big liquid crystal displays telling them what to do and when to shock. The type of defibrillator that saved Barker's life, the kind likely to be used by people with little or no training, is fairly new and only now slowly starting to turn up in public buildings. Your local chapter of the American Red Cross can tell you how to buy the machine and will provide training in how to use it.

 I've got any number of clippings this month telling of UCC members and clergy demonstrating or speaking against military action against Iraq. One comes from the Christmas Eve edition of The Capital Times in Madison, Wis., where 724 members of 11 UCC churches have signed letters to President Bush, urging him to allow the arms inspectors more time. The letter reads in part, "I am writing as a concerned Christian and as a citizen who has the best interest of our nation at heart. I urge you in the strongest terms possible to let the United Nations arms inspectors do their work to completion before deciding what next steps need to be taken." The Madison Mennonite Church also signed the UCC letter.

 With help from a large and healthy UCC church across town, the much smaller and struggling Faith UCC in Lincoln, Neb., is surviving, according to a story in the Journal Star. "Faith UCC is a small, aging congregation that some might describe as a dying church," says the article. In 1998, when it could no longer afford the salary of its own minister, the 114 members turned to First-Plymouth UCC and its senior pastor, the Rev. Otis Young, asking if the larger church could help provide pastoral assistance. Now, more than four years later, you never know who will turn up in the pulpit. It might be Ronald Roskens, the former president of the University of Nebraska; Phil Heckman, former president of Doane College; former Nebraska Conference Minister the Rev. Clip Higgins, or any number of other ordained or lay preachers. It's part of a contract between the two churches, which also calls for pastors at First-Plymouth to conduct weddings and funerals and visit the sick. The membership of Faith is responsible for the church upkeep, providing an organist and other administrative functions. The variety of styles and philosophy offered by the different preachers is attracting a few new members, as well as non-members, who attend services regularly.

 Like many beauty pageant contestants, Miss San Francisco Nicole Lamarche is a college student. Unlike most, if not all other contestants, Lamarche is a second- year graduate student at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif., and a pastor-in-training at Congregational UCC of San Mateo. She's the subject of a feature article in The Daily Review, serving the East Bay area south of Oakland. As she continues her studies to be ordained, she prepares to compete in the Miss California pageant in June. Should she win there, it's on to Atlantic City and the Miss America contest late next summer. The 24-year-old seminarian says, "The stuff you do as a minister is sort of the same as the stuff you do as Miss California or Miss San Francisco or Miss America or whatever, because you're connecting with people and speaking. It's about relationships." She goes on to say, "I've never seen a contestant in a wheelchair, or anything, so in a way, I think, am I just perpetuating this system, but in a way, I think it's worth the struggle. I'd rather participate and advocate for those issues than just opt out of it altogether."

Has your church been featured in a newspaper or magazine? If so, send a clipping of the article to Clippings, United Church News, 700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland OH 44115-1100. Mention the name of the publication and the city where it's located. Lee Foley is Director for Administration in the UCC's Proclamation, Identity and Communication Ministry.

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