Mind Body Spirit – July-August 2020


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

July – August 2020, Vol. 5 Issue 5


As this newsletter is being written, many states are experiencing recent increases in the incidence of Covid-19 cases and hospitals in some states are nearing capacity for available ICU beds. 

01_People_with_Masks.jpgWhen social distancing is not possible in public spaces, wearing a mask protects others, reducing overall community transmission. Masks may even remind people not to touch their faces after touching potentially contaminated surfaces.  Wearing a face mask cannot necessarily prevent a given individual from contracting coronavirus, but it could help stop people from spreading it to others. That is important because people who are infected can spread the virus days before symptoms show up, and some infected people never get symptoms.

Public health officials note that while there remains uncertainty about just how effectively face masks or coverings can prevent coronavirus transmission—the evidence overall indicates they can play an important role in limiting the epidemic’s spread.  As promoters of health and wellness, we can educate others about the importance of wearing masks as well as how to wear them correctly.  Wearing a mask is a sign of love for others.                                 

ANNOUNCEMENT:  Our first news item in this issue is to announce the retirement of the newsletter’s co-editor Deb Stankiewicz,  MS, RN-BC, HTCP.  Deb has been Parish Nurse at First Congregational UCC of Western Springs, Illinois for 30 ½ years.  She is using the summer months to focus on the transition from that staff position to her retirement in September.  We extend heartfelt gratitude to Deb for her health ministries leadership and nursing care to her congregation and to UCC Wellness Ministries work. 

UCC WELLNESS MINISTRIES: an Open and Affirming Ministry of the United Church of Christ. 

Open and Affirming (ONA) is the United Church of Christ’s (UCC) designation for congregations, campus ministries, and other bodies in the UCC which make a public covenant of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.

This spring the Leadership Team of the UCC Wellness Ministries and faith community nurses wrote and submitted a covenant and is now recognized as an Open and Affirming Ministry of the United Church of Christ. 


As people of faith and supporters of wellness in body, mind, and spirit it is easy to become overwhelmed when confronted by the need to respond to both the ongoing issues of racial justice and a developing pandemic that scientists are still trying to understand.  Our denomination, the United Church of Christ, is actively exploring these issues and offering resources for spiritual health, physical health, and mental health.

United Church of Christ Resources:

Rev. Dr. Velda Love serves as the Minister for Racial Justice to help the church live into its vision of building a just world for all.  In the Racial Justice section of the UCC website the following resources are available:

The black community and other minorities seem to be at greater risk of adverse health outcomes associated with COVID-19.  American Medical Association President, Dr. Patrice Harris, MD, MA  posits The reason why,  focusing on these three factors:

  • Preexisting conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity that disproportionately impact the African American community.
  • Essential jobs that are not in the health profession, including bus drivers, train operators and custodians, are overrepresented by communities of color.
  • Structural inequities and social determinants of health that are influenced by implicit bias and racial discrimination.

The American Medical Association provides  COVID-19 health equity resources that explain the current situation and offer guidance for change.    There are additional COVID-19 Racial Equity and Social Justice resources.


This coronavirus disease has presented a challenge to our churches and faith-based organizations.  The rules and regulations regarding precautions that must be taken and what gatherings may occur differ from state to state.  Read your state rules and ask specific questions from your state’s Department of Health. 

Additional guidance is available from the UCC at  Coronavirus and the Church. This web page contains information that all settings of the United Church of Christ – local churches, associations, conferences, and national ministries may find useful.

02_Wash_your_hands.jpgThe United Church of Christ Coronavirus-19 Resources provides detailed information that assists as we care for individuals, families, groups, congregation and community we serve by exploring Health and Wholeness in the Midst of COVID-19 Health and Wholeness in the Midst of COVID-19

The CDC also provides assistance with a Check list for Faith Communities

The CDC  has a number of new resources related to COVID-19 available in multiple languages.

It is recommended that churches follow the CDC Guidance on Cleaning and Disinfecting and  the local regulations.  Checklists of what to consider when considering reopening the buildings are provided.

Resources for Supporting Mental Health

An American Psychiatric Association survey found that many people have significant anxiety and concerns related to coronavirus disease (COVID-19).  The Partnership Center of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services  has a document available Considering Faith, Community, and Mental Health During the COVID-19 Crisis to assist faith community leaders assist those who seek their help for mental health concerns.  It includes an extensive list of mental health resources.

Faith Common Sense and Reducing Panic– Written by Deborah Ringen RN-BC ,faith community nurse and Transitional Minister of Health and Wellness for the Southern New England Conference, UCC. What greater way is there to love yourself and your neighbor than by using basic infection control like hand washing to help stop the spread of viruses and other illnesses?

Addressing the Unique Needs of Children and Youth

The Southern New England Conference, UCC has posted  Resources for Individuals and Families with suggestions for talking to children.  This list is being updated regularly as new resources are discovered related either racial justice or COVID-19.  Suggestions are provided for  Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus Crisis.

A tip sheet 10 Ways to Respond to Fear and Scapegoating During the Coronavirus Epidemic provides guidance for conversations with young people to help them respond in positive, relationship-enhancing ways to the interpersonal or prejudicial challenges that surface during the coronavirus epidemic.

Improving health by Reducing a Sense of Loneliness or Isolation

Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and even death.  Especially now during the Covid-19 epidemic congregants of all ages have reported having feelings of loneliness while disconnected from others socially.  Others report a sense of isolation as they have no meaningful relationships even if they are surrounded by people. 

03_Keep_each_other_safe.pngAn article titled The risks of social isolation by Amy Novotney and published in the American Psychological Association explains the ways in which loneliness and isolation have a negative effect on all aspects of health.  The information may help in developing increased communication and connectedness within and between groups within the congregation.

How to overcome loneliness while you are social distancing by Bryan Bushman, PhD provides a variety of suggestions that you could encourage your congregants to incorporate into their routines.  Although each of us may feel alone none of us are experiencing Covid-19 alone.

Remind people that physical distancing is not social isolation.  In addition to worship services being sent electronically using Zoom, churches have coffee hour after worship,  weekly Bible study,  committee meetings, and all church meetings virtually.

The World Health Organization has posters stating Physical distancing is not social isolation and other small posters; all are available in a variety of languages.


Idea for a new fellowship group by Linda Morgan, BSN, RN, Commissioned Minister of Congregational Health, Community UCC, Champaign, IL

Last fall, in consultation with my pastor, I started a new social group at our church for “persons who live alone”.   Having recently recovered from a lengthy illness myself, I had gained a new perspective on the hazards to mind and spirit health, that living alone can create.  My pastor agreed this idea would be a worthwhile effort, especially when we realized the significant number of persons in our congregation who share this living situation.   This is no surprise given the fact there were 36.48 million single-person households in the US in 2019.

Our group was initiated specifically for persons who live alone for ANY reason, either part-time or full time.  We planned to provide a way to connect with each other on a monthly basis, for fellowship and fun activities of the group’s choosing.  The first few activities were chosen by a small planning group; members now take turns volunteering to plan a certain month’s activity and sharing the details with the others.   The group is enjoying the opportunity to become acquainted with a new group of church friends.

Sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic stopped our activities temporarily, but it has also given us a new direction.  The group allows us to check in with each other either by a group email or individual phone call, which we especially appreciate during this time of social isolation.  When the public health guidelines in our state begin to loosen up, we again look forward to some group activities, while incorporating our “new normal” of social distancing and wearing masks.


04_Be_wise_immunize.pngNational Immunization Awareness Month: 

This topic is especially important this year.  With the shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been decreased accessibility to routine immunization services.  Many provider offices have transitioned to telemedicine practices, where possible, to provide continuity of care.  The observed declines in routine vaccination coverage might leave young children vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, and adults vulnerable to other vaccine-preventable diseases.

CDC Vaccination Guidance During a Pandemic    Ensuring immunization services are maintained or reinitiated is essential for protecting individuals and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks and reducing the burden of respiratory illness during the upcoming influenza season.

Important vaccination information for babies, children, pre-teens, teens, and adults: the CDC offers a toolkit for Communicating with Parents and Patients. 


Resilience series (Zoom Webinars) offered by the Southern New England Conference, UCC supports resilience and well-being:

July 7, 2020, 3-4 pm – 3 Good Things. Presenter: Bryan Sexton, PhD Associate Professor, Director, Duke Center for Healthcare Safety & Quality, Duke University Health System. He will facilitate resilience building for participants and for their colleagues through use of a positive psychology intervention of practicing Three Good Things. 

July  14, 2020, 3-4 pm- Balancing Mind, Body and Spirit Wellness: Model for Healthy Living.  Presenter: Deborah Ringen MSN, RN-BC Faith Community Nurse, Transitional Minister of Health & Wellness. Her ministry is dedicated to walking alongside people experiencing distress due to illness and grief with a focus on compassionate care for all.

July 28th, 2020 3 –4-pm – “Tell Me About Your Losses…”.  Presenter: Rev. Dr. Martha Jacobs, BCC ret. Past President of UCC Professional Chaplains and Counselors. Coordinator for UCC Disaster Ministries Chaplains. She has led retreats, workshops, and trainings for the UCC, assisting clergy following natural disasters and human-caused traumas, to help try to prevent clergy burnout.


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Previous issues of the newsletter
Use previous year’s monthly newsletters to aid your search for links to resources on health ministries and wellness topics:

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  • Have something you want to share with your colleagues?
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Let us hear from you.

Alyson Breisch
, Editor