Mind Body Spirit – January-February 2019


Mind, Body, Spirit: Linking Lives for Health and Wholeness
The Wellness Ministries of the UCC Newsletter
(formerly The Faith Community Nurse Health Ministry Newsletter)

January/February 2019, Volume 4, Issue 1

As we embark into the new year, 2019, there are two important announcements to share with you:

  • First, two new editors have been selected to serve in this fourth year of the newsletter. We start this edition with our heartfelt thanks to Peggy Matteson for her leadership and strong editorial skills serving as editor for the first three years.  Deb Stankiewicz, MS, RN-BC, HTCP, Parish Nurse at First Congregational UCC of Western Springs, Illinois and Alyson Breisch, MSN, RN-BC, former Parish Nurse and Director of Congregational Care at United Church of Chapel Hill UCC, Chapel Hill, NC are now sharing the editorial work; we hope that you will continue to support this newsletter and keep in touch with us by sharing information for upcoming issues and feedback. 


  • Second, The UCC Faith Community Nurse Health Ministry also has a new name selected by the leadership group: Wellness Ministries of the UCC. This new title reflects the broad dimensions of Health Ministries and Faith Community Nursing activities that promote and support activities of health, healing, and wholeness within our congregations and the communities served. The leadership group chose this new title after discussions about the scope of health, wellness, and healing ministries within local congregations and review of the intent and mission from the Resolution passed at the Twenty-first General Synod in 1997 titled Reclaiming The Church’s Ministry Of Health And Healing.  http://www.ucc.org/justice_health_general-synod-21-reclaiming


01Mind_Gears.png1. Alzheimer’s Awareness Month: A common misperception among lay people is that any type of memory loss is dementia and that all dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. In reality, dementia describes a set of signs and symptoms whose etiology is varied. Treatment depends on the etiology. Alzheimer’s Disease is just one type of memory disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Dementia indicates problems with at least two brain functions, such as memory loss, impaired judgment or language, and the inability to perform some daily activities, such as paying bills or driving.”

The burden of Alzheimer’s Disease and related memory disorders on family caregivers is becoming increasingly apparent to Faith Community Nurses.  To be responsive faith community nurses need to be both well- educated about the disease process and have a firm grasp on available resources for patients and caregivers.

Alzheimer’s Association- www.alz.org is a comprehensive, detailed educational resource on disease etiology, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment as well as stages of dementia and dealing with behavioral issues. These pieces are well-written and understandable for lay people. There is an extensive section for family caregivers that provides information on caregiving at every stage of the disease, support resources and caregiver health and well-being. For professionals, there is an extensive research section which details current research progress, available clinical trials for patients and specific instructions for professionals who wish to pursue research grants. This website should be a go-to referral source for any faith community nurse working with patients and their caregivers with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias.

2. Cervical Health Awareness Month:

Nearly 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, but the disease is preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening (Pap and HPV tests).

With our interest in educating and advocating for increased knowledge of cervical cancer and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) disease, there are resources available through this link: http://www.nccc-online.org/hpvcervical-cancer/cervical-health-awareness-month/

There is also a continuing education series (each viewing awards 0.25 contact hour) you can access here: https://www.medscape.org/viewcollection/34363?src=acdmpart_asha_34363

3. National Glaucoma Awareness Month:

Nearly three million people ages 40 and older have glaucoma and those numbers are projected to increase steadily as more baby boomers move into retirement.  In the early stages, glaucoma has no symptoms, no noticeable vision loss or pain, which is why it is called the “sneak thief of sight.”  Prevent Blindness offers a dedicated web page providing patients and their caregivers with additional free information at https://www.preventblindness.org/glaucoma.


02National_Eye_Institute.png1. Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Low Vision Awareness Month:

03Risk.jpg2. American Heart Month:

There are many online resources available related to heart disease, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, stroke.  One resource that is very comprehensive is the Million Hearts website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  This year’s focus is on young adults.  More younger adults are dying of heart disease, and their rates of risk factors—such as physical inactivity, tobacco use, and hypertension—are also increasing.  https://millionhearts.hhs.gov/news-media/events/heart-month.html

Another resource is The American Heart Association website: https://www.heart.org/

A Different Approach to Heart Health:  Personal Perspective Deb Stankiewicz, MS, RN-BC, HTCP, Faith Community Nurse

As February approaches many faith community nurses will want to plan educational events to promote heart health. Logical approaches are to focus on blood pressure, heart healthy diet and exercise promotion. As important as these are to good heart health, emphasis on them can run the risk of ignoring the mental and spiritual aspects of heart health.  As a faith community nurse, I am always on a quest to find user-friendly ways to better my health. 

What I have learned in thirty years practicing as a faith community nurse is that members will usually embrace that which is at their finger-tips, doesn’t take a lot of time and is easy to use.  I have also learned that through sharing stories of my own experience successfully using a health promotion strategy, members are more likely to try suggested strategy! Peace of mind and spirit are vital to good heart health and self-care in general. Last fall, I came across an article in the Health section of the Chicago Tribune describing an app for meditation, called Insight Timer. The article said it is one of the most popular meditation apps. I started using it first daily and then during the night when I had difficulty sleeping. After several weeks of using it I was not only sleeping better but noticing a difference in mood, a palpable sense of spiritual grounding and eating habits changing for the better.  Four months later, I am absolutely loving using this app which for me has become a daily health habit.

As a follow-up to annual health screening during one-on-one consultations with participants, I introduced them to the app. In the three months since, several members continue to use the app and are reporting health improvements similar to those I noticed. Regular meditation is known to decrease heart rate and blood pressure, to improve mood and to promote neuroplasticity.  You don’t have to be an expert to do Meditation Facilitation or to cultivate your own meditation practice. All you need is a Smart Phone or an iPad on which you can use the meditation app. Did you know there is a standardized nursing intervention named Meditation Facilitation?  Why not implement Meditation Facilitation as part of your February efforts to promote heart health? See my description of the app below and feel free to use it in your newsletters or bulletins as a promo for this heart healthy strategy!

Insight Timer is a wonderful free meditation app which can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play. It is “the largest library of free meditations on earth”. The app contains guided meditations on a multitude of topics including things such as stress, anxiety, motivation, gratitude and sleep to mention a few. There is also a large collection of meditative music tracks within the app. The user can filter their search by how much time they want to meditate as well as by topic. Educational podcasts within the app can be purchased for a nominal fee but are optional. Check it out!  https://insighttimer.com/


This year Ash Wednesday falls on March 6th.  Lent is often described as a time of prayer, fasting, charitable giving, and service.  Lent is also a time for self-reflection.  Walking offers us an opportunity to be outdoors in nature – either alone or with friends – and make time for quiet reflection.  Many churches invite members to walk a labyrinth or participate in a community Walk to Jerusalem which includes teams cumulatively walking the distance between your faith community’s location and Jerusalem and can also include reflective readings and discussion.                

Begin now to plan for Lenten activities that promote whole-person wellness during Lent. 

05SynodShinelogo.jpgUCC GENERAL SYNOD 2019 UPDATE:

Wisconsin is hosting General Synod from June 21 through June 25, 2019.  The theme is “Shine”. 

The Rev. Franz Rigert, Wisconsin Conference Minister notes “When we light just one candle in the darkness, it illuminates dimly, but when many candles are lit, and all let their lights shine, together we can bring brightness to the world.”

Complete General Synod information is now available on the national UCC website: ucc.org/synod


The Health Ministries Association Annual Conference will be held October 11-14, 2019 in the Cincinnati area at Erlanger, KY.  The theme is Faith-Based Approaches to Cultivate Healthier Communities.  The speakers and schedule are being finalized.  Watch for registration information to be posted at https://hmassoc.org/news-events/upcoming-conference/

Westberg Institute for Faith Community Nursing will be held in Memphis, TN April 8-10, 2019.  The theme is In These Times: Serving Through Adversity.  Registration is now open.  https://westberginstitute.org/symposium2019/

Deborah Ringen, a member of our leadership team was recently interviewed by Rev. Kent Siladi, Conference Minister of the Connecticut Conference of the UCC; the webinar focused on health ministry and faith community nursing.  You can view the webinar (32.5 minutes length) through either of these links:

Zoom link:

Facebook link:

FUTURE QuestionMark.pngISSUES

Have something “you want to share with your colleagues?
That which we share with others multiplies immeasurably”

Alyson Breisch alyson.breisch@gmail.com and/or Deb Stankiewicz debbie@wscongo.org