Annual conference altar call leads to health training


Special to the Advocate

At the 2005 Mississippi Annual Conference, Bishop Felton May called for individuals moved to work in health. Slowly the altar filled with willing clergy and laity.

The focus on health comes from the list of quadrennial initiatives for the Mississippi Conference. 

Individuals who participated in the altar call are taking action. A Health and Wellness Task force was formed and is completing tasks which are moving the Mississippi Conference to a healthier lifestyle. 

On March 2, more than 30 members of the Health and Wellness Task force attended a Congregational Health Ministries training. The Rev. Patrick Phillips and Alice Emanuel of Jackson Central UMC hosted the training. The training was conducted by Elaine M. Dye who formerly worked for the General Board of Global Ministries and was co-author of Congregational Health Ministries: A Guide for Congregations manual and training.  Elaine works for The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi in the college initiative.  She is the wife of the Rev. Millsaps Dye of Grenada.

Elaine Dye began with the question, “What is health ministry?”

Using an umbrella image, she described how all the church does fall under “health ministry.” Health ministry is a process for congregations to bring healing and wholeness to individuals and the community, she said. She stressed that health ministry is a process not a program.

Participants began the process by defining “health.” Health is not just physical but environmental, social, mental/emotional, economic/political and spiritual. Each person reflected on these health areas in his/her life and then drew a symbolic health person. Each part of the body represented one area of health. Were these perfectly balanced persons? No, health is a journey towards wholeness.  

The group was then entertained and informed by the Rev. Jesse Moore who shared some of John Wesley’s rules for living:

  • ”The air we breathe is of great consequence to our health.”
  • “Water is the wholesomest of all drinks; it quickens the appetite and strengthen the digestion most.  Strong and more especially spirituous liquors are a certain, though slow, poison. Coffee and tea are extremely hurtful to persons who have weak nerves.”
  •  “A due degree of exercise is indispensably necessary to health and long life. Walking is the best exercise for those who are able to bear it.”

Wesley wrote these rules in Primitive Physick in 1747.

The training continued through the five phases for Congregational Health Ministries:

  •  Preparation
  •  Formation
  •  Planning
  •  Implementation
  •  Evaluation 

During the five phases, participants brainstormed on health ministry activities, looked at models of health ministry (i.e. health minister, parish nurse and lay counselor) and discussed the health ministry team makeup.

Becky P. Williams, a member of Crossgates UMC in Brandon, facilitated the completion of each participant’s personal action plan and the group’s action plan. Each person took time to reflect and list specific action items to move them closer to more abundant living.  The group brainstormed on action items for the Health and Wellness Task Force. One action item was to develop a health ministry team from the Task Force. The team will train congregations, small groups or individuals in the Congregational Health Ministries process. The health ministry team includes:

  • Ruth Ann Williams, Clinton First UMC
  • Alice H. Emanuel, Jackson Central UMC
  • Annie J. Williams, Walden Chapel UMC
  • Becky P. Williams, Brandon Crossgates UMC
  • Beth Feisel, Crossgates UMC
  • Martha M. Williams, Jackson Central UMC
  • Ed Norris, chaplain, Methodist LeBonheur
  • Luz Dial, Fannin UMC
  • Jesse Moore, United Methodist chaplain
  • Elaine M. Dye, Grenada Grace UMC

Those interested in learning more about Congregational Health Ministries can contact Dye,, or the Rev. Embra Jackson at the conference office at 1-866-647-7486.