Sunday, January 31, 2016
(Any Sunday may be chosen for the observance.)
Health and Human Service Sunday is a special opportunity to create awareness of the health concerns of our communities and world, and to learn about the many and various health and human service ministries of the United Church of Christ. It is observed annually in the United Church of Christ and is an opportunity to talk about health in a holistic way, address the issues of justice in our health care systems and learn about how each of us can become involved.
The resources for observing Health and Human Service are available throughout the year and may be used for the many opportunities congregations and other organizations have for creating awareness of and responding to the health needs of their communities and throughout the world.
A Litany for Diakonal Ministry
Leader: God, our loving creator
People: Make us care enough to trust you.
L: Jesus, friend of all – even the outcasts, the apathetic, all those marginalized
P: Open our eyes to see you in all creation – including the outcasts, the apathetic, all those marginalized.
L: Holy Spirit, God’s fire, make us sharers in the holiness of God
P: Guide us in the direction of those who are vulnerable.
L: God of grace, who creates us into a new community
P: Warm our hearts and souls to love our neighbors as we love you.
L: God of love, you are a wellspring of hope and compassion
P: Give us strength and courage to be a sanctuary to those who are in need of grace and mercy
L: God, our refuge and strength, help our congregations be places of extravagant welcome
P: Help us work tirelessly to make changes in ourselves and in our communities that model a welcoming spirit.
L: Creator God, with your love you support and sustain us.
P: Help us recreate the human community to promote justice and peace for the healing of the earth.
L: O God, pour upon us the precious oil of unity
P: Let us move forward together with one mind and one spirit
L: Almighty God, you have called us to feed the hungry welcome the stranger; shelter the homeless; clothe the naked; and comfort the sick and imprisoned.
P: Help us to remember that we are an extension of Jesus Christ’s ministry in the world. Give us courage to practice diakonia – the ministry of healing, service, care compassion and hospitality.
All: Where the Church is, there is the mission. Where the Church is, there are those who have been called to live “for the sake of the other.” Let the love and grace of God be made visible in our mission in health and human service.
Legacies of Compassion and Human Service
Stories from UCC-related health and human service agencies
Health and Human Service Sunday Archives
To check-out resources from previous years, click here.
It costs about $35,000 to incarcerate a juvenile. It takes just $7,000 a year to educate one.
Juveniles can be tried as adults in all 50 states, and are vulnerable to adult punishments. They may also be remanded to adult prisons.
The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child states that crimes committed by a juvenile should not result in execution or life in prison without parole. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to execute people for crimes they committed as children. As a consequence, a number of young people were released from death row into the general prison population. Five other countries execute people for juvenile offenses: Iran, Yemen, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.
The Twenty-Third General Synod stated, "We affirm the right of juveniles to an equitable system of justice that respects the life and promise of our youth."
October is National Youth Justice Awareness Month
The United States has more than 60,000 children sitting in jail, lost in a broken system that has led our country to incarcerate more children than any other nation. Why are we turning our backs on the youngest, most vulnerable members of society, locking up 2 out of 3 of those who are convicted of nonviolent offenses? Why are 80 percent of children who are imprisoned black or Hispanic? And why are we punishing these children so harshly, dooming some of them to solitary confinement, where they are left torturously alone, causing severe physical and psychological harm? Voices from all points of the political spectrum, including the faith community are calling for answers and solutions to these and many other issues. They are speaking out and raising awareness for criminal justice and youth justice reform.
The Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) is a national initiative committed to seeking solutions for these troubling questions. It is focused entirely on ending the practice of prosecuting, sentencing, and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system.
Annually, the Campaign sponsors National Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) which aims to provide people across the country an opportunity to develop action-oriented events in their communities during the month of October. Individuals, communities and organizations can advocate for better juvenile justice policies by elevating the importance of issues such as determining the age that juveniles are classified as adults, housing juveniles with adult offenders, and isolation in solitary confinement. This year President Barack Obama has signed a proclamation observing October as National Youth Justice Awareness Month. Read the President’s Proclamation.
One way that your local congregation can be involved this year is to partner with organizations to get local governments or state Governors to pass resolutions declaring that October is Youth Justice Awareness Month.
- Youth Justice Awareness Month Guide to Passing a Resolution
- How to Host a Film Screening
- Childhood Interrupted (Film | Discussion Guide)
- Stickup Kid (Film | Discussion Questions)
JWM is interested in knowing what activities, actions your local congregation will undertake during National Youth Justice Awareness Month. Email your events, film screenings, discussion, actions, photos, stories, etc. to Barbara T. Baylor at email@example.com.
BIG NEWS: Reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act introduced in Congress
Recently, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced legislation, S.1169, to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, which was created in 1974 and has not been updated since 2002.
The legislation would make improvements to the law, including:
- incorporating recent research into adolescent behavior and brain research,
- requiring that the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) identify best practices to serve and protect at-risk youth,
- phasing out remaining circumstances when youth can be detained for status offenses (offenses which would not be a crime if committed by an adult),
- removing youth charged in adult court from placement in adult jails.
The JJDPA is the only federal law that sets national standards for the treatment of youth involved in juvenile justice systems. In the 40 years since it was first enacted into law, the JJDPA has enabled significant improvements to juvenile justice, including reducing youth crime rates and supporting many states in creating fairer approaches that help youth stay connected to their communities and get back on track.
In 2001 the 23rd General Synod of the United Church of Christ affirmed advocacy for fair and appropriate treatment of youth, especially as they are involved with or at risk for involvement in the criminal justice system.
Resources on the JJDPA & the New Senate Bill
- Read the bill text
- Key changes to JJDP Reauthorization Act introduced in 113th Congress
- Major Provisions of Juvenile Justice Reauthorization Act of 2015
- Act4JJ's Resources on the JJDPA
Resolution: Reclaiming the Church's Ministry of Health and Healing
Health is harmony with self and others, the environment, and with God—a continuum of physical, social, psycological, and spiritual well-being. Health ministry is the promotion of healing and health as wholeness as a mission of a faith community to its members and the community it serves. Health partners are many, both paid and volunteer, laity and clergy, all are committed to sharing the compassionate love and grace of Jesus Christ through the health and healing ministries of the UCC.
The health minister/parish nurse serves as a member of the ministry team of the local church. The health minister (a person having a health care background that may or may not be a parish nurse) facilitates the promotion of health and healing via health educational programs, spiritual care, referrals to appropriate health care providers, as well as through support groups and personal health counseling. The parish nurse, a registered profesional nurse, promotes health and wholeness through the practice of nursing as defined by the nurse practice act in the jurisdiction in which he/she practices. Parish nurses function as health counselors, resource persons, spiritual caregivers, health educators, small group facilitators, and coordinators of health ministry volunteers.
WHEREAS, recognizing many illnesses and premature deaths may be prevented by lifestyle choices and belief systems, (i.e. diet, exercise, substance abuse, violence, and risk-taking behaviors), health ministers/parish nurses integrate current medical and behavioral knowledge with the belief and practices of a faith community to prevent illness and promote wholeness; and
WHEREAS, the UCC Statement of Health and Welfare (1985) states that, "Based on our understanding of Shalom—of God's intent for harmony and wholeness within creation—and on the examples of Jesus Christ's ministry which expressed God's intent through acts of love and justice, we must be committed as a church to a mission of Shalom and to a lifestyle compatible with that mission;" and
WHEREAS, essential elements of a health ministry/parish nursing program include (but are not limited to):
- a philosophy of health and wholeness as a part of the faith community's mission;
- a designated person or team to be concerned about health ministry;
- a commitment to continued learning regarding health and wellness issues;
- a process to develop and evaluate health and wholeness goals and objectives;
- health education and programming according to assessed health needs of the congregation;
- awareness of health and wellness celebrations designated in the UCC calendar; and
WHEREAS, General Synod Eighteen (June, 1985) adopted the "Mission Statement on Health and Welfare" which states that: It is clear that the whole church is involved in this mission (in health and welfare). Whether represented in local churches, associations, conferences, or national level bodies the whole church is itself the creation of God's compassionate mercy in Christ, and as such, the instrument of God's intention for all humankind. (II Corinthians 5:13-21); and
WHEREAS, good health is a part of God's intention for all people, health involves the whole person—body, mind, and spirit and healing and health care are valid ways of proclaiming the Gospel and ministering in the name of Jesus Christ; and
WHEREAS, the Gospel prolcaims that health is a relationship to God set forth in Baptism and Holy Communion in which God makes wholeness as the Divine Gift.
The wholeness ascribed by God as a gift recognizes that illness and disability exist, but the presence of these does not define the individual in the sight of God, or limit the ability of such individuals to be in a whole relationsihp with God; and
WHEREAS, the United Church of Christ recognizes that God calls certain of its members to various forms of ministry in and on behalf of the church for which ecclesiastical authorization is recognized by commissioning, licensing, and ordination; health ministers and parish nurses may feel called to one of these authorized ministries; and
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Twenty-first General Synod encourages local congregations to develop/include in their mission a commitment to health and wholeness, engage health and wholeness issues through an ongoing health cabinet/health ministry team, and consider the implementation of a health ministry/parish nurse program.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Twenty-first General Synod calls upon the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries and Office of Church Life and Leadership, in conjunction with conferences, United Church of Christ seminaries, the Council on Health and Human Services Ministries and local congregations, to begin and/or continue to develop resources that support the development and enrichment of health ministry programs in local churches; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Twenty-first General Synod calls upon conferences and associations to:
1. Establish or designate a body to address health and human service issues confronting members and their communities; and
2. Recognize health ministry and parish nursing as a specialized ministry; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Twenty-first General Synod calls upon the Office of Church Life and Leadership to recognize and consider including health ministry/parish nursing in the listing of specific church-related ministries qualifying for commissioned ministry, and to consider developing guidelines and educational standards to be included in the United Church of Christ Manual on Ministry.
Subject to the availability of funds.
I weep for the hurt of my people; I stand amazed silent, dumb with grief. Is there no medicine in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why doesn't God do something? Why doesn't He help? —Jeremiah 8:21-22 (Living Bible Translation)
Today many Americans die and are disabled from health conditions that are greatly impacted by lifestyle behaviors. In fact, 54% of our health status is a result of lifestyle choices. These conditions might be prevented or better managed if we 1) knew the risks associated with many health problems, 2) believed that healthy activities could be beneficial, and 3) could receive appropriate health care services and resources. Lifestyle changes that can improve the quality of life have been identified as engaging in consistent moderate exercise; cessation from smoking and other addictions; consuming a diet high in fiber, and low in fat and cholesterol; increasing social support; and actively managing stress.
Today, several of the leading causes of death—Heart Disease, Cancers, Strokes, Injuries, Chronic Lung Disease, Pneumonia/Influenza, Diabetes, Suicide, HIV/AIDS, Homicide, Liver Disease—are considered "lifestyle" diseases because they could be reduced through common sense changes in lifestyle. Oftentimes we speculate on or presume to know the causes of these "lifestyle" diseases and disabilities from specific behaviors exhibited by the individual at risk. For example, the person who suffers a heart attack might consume a diet high in saturated fat, engage in little or no exercise and might smoke. The person involved in a motor vehicle accident might have been speeding or consuming alcohol. Perhaps the person was not wearing a seatbelt. These are examples of things that we observe and speculate on and, when a family member, loved one or friend whose death, disease, disability is caused by a specific behavioral action, we discuss and share with one another our own need to "do better" or admit that we "need to make some changes." Sadly, the time for making needed changes in our own lives gets pushed on the back burner until a crisis hits.
And then there are those diseases that often go undetected until it is too late—sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, helplessness, lovelessness, insecurities, personal guilt and persecution, abandonment, discouragement, low self-esteem and image, stress, depression, and a broken heart (to name a few). These are symptoms of pending disability and serious health change if they continue to go undetected. These are the diseases that we often cannot readily observe. They are masked. People are masking these emotions because they fear rejection if anyone really knew what they were going through—if anyone knew the "real deal". People are masking these emotions because society teaches us to be strong and to "pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps". We are taught to laugh on the outside and not to let anyone see us cry. There is so much pain. Pain so deep that we cannot pull ourselves up or call out for help to anyone. We cry out in anguish "Oh God, help me"!
It is in the context of these often "undetected" diseases that the emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions of health must further emerge. It is in these three dimensions that the church must take the lead role. For many, health is narrowly defined and specifically targeted to one dimension—the physical. Health consists of five dimensions—physical, social, emotional, mental, and spiritual. An individual is considered healthy when all of these dimensions are working together in harmony. Because healing does not necessarily mean curing (as we tend to think), a Health Ministry in a congregation involves emotional, mental and spiritual healing which can occur during illness even when curing of the disease is not present. Galatians 5:15 reminds us to "Love our neighbors, as ourselves". As Christians we are called to love as Jesus Christ has loved. We are called to service, as Jesus Christ served. We have the responsibility to minister to those in need. In the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:37-40) Jesus invites the righteous (the sheep) to receive their inheritance by entering the kingdom which has been prepared for them because of their faithful service and unselfish, compassionate giving. ("I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me"). We should strive to be sheep.
Can the church make a difference in reducing disability and death? The church today still represents a natural point of reference for many communities. It is because it is a natural reference point that focusing health promotion and disease prevention activities should be given careful thought. "We are finding that all the 'expert and expensive health care solutions' still do not guarantee better health outcomes and quality of life. It may be that to mobilize, educate, and coordinate resources through congregations works better". It is not a new idea for churches to develop health programs whose purpose is to have an impact upon the most significant health risks and crippling health conditions in congregations. However, it is an increasingly important one as health care funding and services gradually shrink. Local churches can help address the need for more appropriate and accessible health care services and the inadequacy of our health care system. In addition, the local church can bring a holistic perspective to an understanding of health as being in harmony with self, others, the environment, and God. Health is a continuum of physical, social, psychological, and spiritual well-being.
Today, social service and social action are seen as integral and complementary forms of ministry. Church-related social services and institutions serve many needs. Church-related social action and policy formation cover a wide range of contemporary issues which include: urban life, poverty, housing, health care, family life, women's issues, child care, aging, hospice, racial and ethnic concerns, needs of handicapped persons, peace, and refugees and immigration. As both social services and social action ministries remain faithful to God's vision of shalom, they will respond to the changing needs and new possibilities among people and within society, working always toward liberation from life's bondage and reconciliation of the alienated. The development of health ministries within the congregation helps focus the members' awareness on the essential Christian ministry of health and healing.
When health ministries are an essential part of congregational life, the members:
A. Find opportunities to volunteer their help to those who are in the hospital, or those who are home bound or living in residential care centers;
B. Have the opportunity to learn about wellness and disease prevention. Healthy lifestyle choices are promoted through seminar and workshops, giving information in such arease as exercise, nutrition and handling stress;
C. Through health screening, make early detection and treatment possible; and
D. Provide appropriate resources and advocacy to individuals and community.
A health ministry can promote healing and health as wholeness, as a mission of a faith community to its members and the community it serves. This takes a variety of people, paid and volunteer, laity and clergy, all committed to sharing the compassionate love and grace of Jesus Christ.
As we weep for the hurt and pain of each as we stand in amazement, silent, and dumb with grief; as we wonder if there is medicine in Gilead; as we wonder if there is a physician there; as we wonder if God is going to do something or if God will help, God will, for God is the ultimate Balm in Gilead. But, God also wants us to be a Balm, a healing salve. Developing a health ministry does not require vast sums of money. It only requres us to become the body of Christ. We must have the compassion of Christ, the heart of Christ, the soul of Christ, and most importantly, the love of Christ.