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August 2020 Newsletter

Director's Note, Community Events & Info, New board member Melanie Cool, and Devotional from Pastor David Weasley, FCCB

Dear health ministries community,

First, I’m grateful for all of you and the renewal I find in our monthly connection. I also have newfound appreciation for the technologies, new and old, that are keeping us connected. The phone has gained a new place in my life during COVID-19 and this month’s lovely devotional by Rev. David C. R. Weasley highlights the importance of phone ministry during this time.

We are also thrilled to welcome our dynamo new board member Melanie Cool. A mental health counselor, life coach and so much more, Melanie has led an inspired life and is a testiment to endurance and the power of positive thinking. Scroll down to read about her journey recovering from a dehabilitating neck injury and the role of FCNs in her healing. Thanks to Sampson for this final profile!

As many of your know, our wonderful Communications Coordinator Sampson Alvarado has moved on to new opportunities. Thank you to each of you who signed Sampson’s farewell card. His are big shoes to fill and we are working to post a position in the coming months. In the meantime, please excuse any mistakes or delays on my part as I navigate these systems on my own.

Finally, our monthly August meeting will not have an educational speaker. Typically, we do not meet in July and August, but in light of the value of connection during COVID-19, we will hold a social meeting on August 21. I hope you’ll join!

Thanks for all that you do,

Amelia Vader Executive Director

Upcoming Events

HMN August Meeting

Friday, August 21, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Zoom Video Conference Call

Social meeting this month!

Join us on Zoom using the meeting link sent out in our email newsletter. Didn't get a link? Email

For those who have not used Zoom before, watch this in-depth instructional video on how to set it up.

HMN Fall Kickoff Meeting

Friday, September 18, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Zoom Video Conference Call

Tentatively planned to be via Zoom. Stay tuned for updates!

Community Events & Info

In an effort to connect our volunteers with relevant resources, we publish community events and information in our monthly newsletter and on our website. Email to add your own.

Virtual Advance Care Planning: Best Practice for Crisis and Beyond.

From Respecting Choices

Learn about what is different when preparing for, having, and following up after a “virtual” ACP conversation. A one hour discussion among experienced program leaders.

Learn more in our blog post, "COVID-19 Info & Resources for Faith Communities."

Whatcom medical corps volunteers needed!

We need your help! Health care provider olunteers are needed to revive the local medical corps. For more information and to sign up go to

UW Survey: Health Ministry during COVID-19

Faculty at the University of Washington are researching how health ministry programs are operating during COVID-19. The results will be used to assess how to collaborate on grant opportunities from federal, state or local funders to develop and evaluate health ministry programs during this pandemic. Please take a moment to take the survey by clicking here.

Exploring Equity and Cultural Humility

Thursday, Aug 20th from 1-4pm

Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center with Whatcom Community Health Worker Network

This intensive 3-hr workshop inspires and empowers participants to grow and engage in activities that honor human diversity, promote cultural self-awareness and understanding, engage in cross-cultural learning activities to gain in-depth knowledge of the history and culture of ethnic and cultural groups, and examine historical and institutional power of the “isms” - racism, sexism, classism, etc

Diabetes Prevention Program

July through September, 25 total class sessions - Zoom Video

Whatcom Family YMCA

The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program helps adults at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes reduce their risk for developing the disease by taking steps that will improve their overall health and well-being. Research by the National Institutes of Health has shown that programs like the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program can reduce the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes by 58% and 71% in adults over the age of 60.

Foundations of Faith Community Nursing Course

Sep 12, 9 AM – Sep 26, 5 PM - Online Course

Pacific Lutheran University

Are you an RN interested in providing a health ministry within your church and community? This fall offering will be taught by Annette Stixrud.

Move 4 A Cause

Every Friday, 4 - 4:30 PM - Zoom Video Conference Call

Dementia Support Northwest

Motivation can be hard to find these days, so every Friday from 4 - 4:30 PM Dementia Support Northwest will be moving and grooving to a different decade, beginning with the 1950s!! Register for this free event. $10 suggested donation to benefit Dementia Support Northwest.

Monthly CHW Meeting

Friday August 28, 9 - 11AM - Zoom Video Conference Call

Whatcom Community Health Worker Network

Join other community health workers for networking and resources. Email for the meeting link.

COVID-19 Support for Caregivers

Weekly - Zoom Video Conference Call

WWU Palliative Care Institute

The Palliative Care Institute has initiated a weekly on-line support group for staff at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, providing in-home care, and/or hospice care, creating a virtual space for them to come together to talk about the impact of the pandemic on their work and their clients and residents -- a kind of ‘COVID coffee break room,’ a place to sit down to talk for a few minutes with others who are also struggling to reconfigure all aspects of care. By gathering their thoughts, PCI hopes be a vehicle for sharing these stories more widely with those outside their worlds. Anyone who would like to join this support group can email to request the Zoom link.


Melanie Cool, MA

HMN Board of Directors

Tell me about yourself.

I wear a lot of different hats! I am a Well-Being Coach, Inspirational Speaker, Educator, Workshop Coordinator, Level One CrossFit Trainer, and Licensed Mental Health Counselor just to name a few!

I can balance all these roles because I practice what I preach: the life-changing tenets of Positive Psychology, the science of well-being. I have over 30-years’ experience managing, teaching, coaching, and counseling, providing me with purpose and meaning.

I use what I have learned to help others, thus far well over 1,000 people, to increase their well-being by guiding them to process and have gratitude for their past, celebrate the present, and embrace the abundant possibilities of their future.

My Bachelor in Arts in Psychology is from Western Washington University and my Master’s in Counseling Psychology from Argosy University. I grew up in Hawaii and have lived in Bellingham, Washington for 35 years. I love all my roles especially Daughter, Mom, and Tutu (Grandma).

Tell me about your connection to faith community nursing.

Years ago, I experienced a devastating neck injury and lost the use of my right arm. As a single mother of three boys, I needed a lot of help! As a member of Christ The Servant Lutheran Church in Bellingham, I had the blessing of Tisch Lynch, who started faith community nursing in this area, and Carol Ham and Jeanne Brotherton, two other amazing faith community nurses (FCNs), to support me.

During my recovery they were my heroines, providing everything I needed. I would not be where I am today without them. It is because of them that I was eventually able to go to graduate school for positive psychology, which I absolutely loved. Even after my time of great need I enjoyed wonderful connection with my FCNs and was invited to be a guest instructor for the foundations course, guest speaker at two or three HMN retreats, and now I'm on the board.

Melanie and her grandkids

What is Positive Psychology?

Positive psychology is the science of well-being. It differs from traditional psychology, which focuses on what is wrong with us and how to fix it, in that it is centered on what’s right with us. Positive psychology asks, “what can you do,” instead of, “what can’t you do.” It is interested in what you have instead of what you do not have. It is about discovering strengths to improve wellbeing, improve relationships, which improves communities, which improves our society.

Why does Positive Psychology matter?

Everybody wants to be happy; everybody wants hope. Positive psychology is wonderful and matters because we all need to be the best versions of ourselves, to be happy and enjoy our lives as much as possible. Positive psychology embraces spirituality and holds that there is always light in the darkness, there is no darkness that light cannot overcome.

I have an uncle who consults with Fortune 500 companies who told me, “you sell hope.” I am not selling it, but I am sharing research that has proven that positive psychology is effective in helping us lead happier lives. Who doesn’t want hope?

Depression and anxiety are so rampant, especially now during C-19 crisis, and the cure for negative emotion is positive emotion. It is scientifically proven when you practice positive psychology, such as making a gratitude list or changing perspective, things like depression and anxiety fade away.

Interestingly, the little-known term post-traumatic growth (PTG) was coined the same time as the term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This illustrates our cultural focus on the negative.

What challenges have you encountered over the course of your positive psychology practice?

The primary challenge has been people thinking positive psychology is just positive thinking. Once people find out what it really is, they like it better.

One of my first clients came in and said, “how do I know you’re not a quack?” I said, “you can look it up, there’s scientific studies, plus it’s not new. The study of happiness has been around since Aristotle, who wondered what it was to live a happy life, then there was Maslow, with the hierarchy of needs, and Martin Seligman developed learned helplessness and learned optimism. The term positive psychology was coined in 2000, but this research has been happening for centuries.” I told that guy, "give it three times," and the next session he came back with a copy of the Harvard Medical Review. The cover revealed “The Science of positive psychology.” He said, “I guess you’re not a quack!”

I had another client who came and said, “it’s not working because I left your office feeling more hopeful and happier. Whenever I’ve had therapy in the past it’s really difficult and it takes days to recover.” Positive psychology believes that traditional therapy is flawed. You don’t ignore the yucky stuff, there is always processing in order to grow and move on, but the focus in on what you can do. Furthermore, we’re not done once we relieve suffering, we move on to thriving. The goal is to build resilience so that when we experience difficult things, we can recover more quickly.

How has COVID-19 affected your practice?

When the lockdown happened, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to work because people didn’t want to do telehealth, but instead I was able to take referrals from other areas and now I am fully booked with a waiting list.

I had worried that telehealth wouldn’t be as effective because you don’t have the intimacy that happens when you’re in the same room with someone. Obviously, it can be difficult because of internet connection, like if the screen freezes in the midst of a difficult moment. But telehealth is providing opportunities that didn’t happen before, such as people wanting to show me their house, meet their kids or animals, and even sharing their crafts. In many ways I feel more connected with my clients because I get to see more of their personal lives.

How have you been coping with COVID-19’s effects on your daily life?

It has been hard for me. My 80 and 85-year-old parent’s live 10 steps from my back door, so I’ve had to stay home to keep them safe. I haven’t been going anywhere or doing anything, and as a very social person, it’s difficult. I miss my friends and my hugs! I have experienced some depression and anxiety for sure. I’m really having to practice what I preach in order to manage myself and my clients.

Additionally, I’ve been experiencing lower back pain and my left leg is numb. I had an MRI that revealed a serious problem in my back, which needs surgery. I really don’t want to go through this again and feel it’s the last thing I need! I was feeling very down so I made a gratitude list. I have a health share plan that will cover my surgery, my parents are well, I have a great surgeon, and friends that can help. I reminded myself of everything I’ve been through. After I wrote that list, I could accept that it is what it is. It’s not about what’s happening, it’s about how we handle what’s happening. It’s about what we can do.

How does a positive psychologist respond to police brutality and racial inequality?

One very important clarification about positive psychology is that in order for it to be implemented, your basic needs have to be met. You need food, clothing, shelter, and safety, and sadly there are lots of people in our community not in that position.

For those of us that are privileged enough to have those needs met there is a lot we can do about police brutality and racial injustice. The first thing we have to do is take care of ourselves. Sometimes people feel self care is selfish. Not true! If you take care of yourself you are better equipped to care for others. For instance, when you’re on an airplane, you are taught to put your own oxygen mask on first, then you’re capable of helping others. We can educate ourselves by reading, watching movies, listening to podcasts, we can protest, support black owned businesses, and leverage social media.

Have you encountered any resistance to following COVID-19 public health requirements such as wearing a mask?

Not personally because my telehealth work is from home, but I have been out in public and wear a mask and everyone I’ve been seeing is wearing a mask. I do have some clients on the conservative side. They live in other areas and don’t want to wear mask, but I have to respect where people are coming from and have empathy and compassion for their life and beliefs.

What do you envision for faith community nursing in our region at this time?

I’m really hoping that faith community nurses (FCNs) are continuing to reach out to people by phone, text or video. So many people are isolated and lonely and that has devastating effects on us, especially with the older population, there is cognitive decline. FCNs are in a great position to make sure people have what they need. FCNS can help people stay connected.

What’s upcoming in your life and practice?

I am currently writing a memoir that recants my life experience and difficulties and at the end of each chapter, pairs it with prescriptive advice based on positive psychology. I’m excited to share all the times in my life that were super tough and to highlight my moments of resilience. I’m hoping to develop a group discussion guide to accompany the book.

I’m also developing a positive psychology app which will include a daily mood check in. This is really exciting to me because I haven’t found any apps like this for individuals. Google actually has a well-being app for their employees because they understand that happy employees equals increased productivity. But most wellbeing apps available to the public offer blanket resources and focus on decreasing anxiety. This one will be focused on helping people increase wellbeing and will be personalized for individuals. The app will begin with a strengths assessment which informs how the app will operate, because everyone is different with different needs.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Abraham Lincoln said, “we can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

It’s important to be able to shift our perspective, and even though it feels sometimes like the world is ending there is always hope!

Interview by Sampson Alvarado July 2020.

To learn more about Melanie go to


Courtesy of Rev. David C. R. Weasley, First Congregational Church of Bellingham

I keep coming back to phone calls.

It's a weird season for all of us, and certainly it's a weird season for my job. As a pastor, I believe my primary work is to attend to folks who stop by my office, who call me in the middle of the day, or who I run into at coffee hour after worship. In these unplanned, unscheduled moments, I've had so many powerful encounters with the deep truth of people's stories, with the visceral questions of this life, with the grace of divine Mystery, showing up again and again.

Nobody comes by my office these days. And I can "run into" people in facebook comments for our livestreamed worship services, or catch them at the end of a Zoom meeting, but it's much harder to grab those moments.

I'm sure everyone at the Health Ministries Network is feeling this challenge, too. For folks who have made a career AND a vocation out of caring for the vulnerable, this season where caring for the vulnerable means mostly not seeing them in person is such a spiritual, emotional and technical challenge.

All of those for-me-sacramental moments in the ordinary rhythm of ministry are harder to grasp these days, so I have to claim the sacredness in other moments.

And so I keep coming back to phone calls.

I think of Fred Rogers on the phone: "Do you know who the most important person in the world to me is?" And then he would tell whoever he was talking to on the phone right then that they are the most important person in the world to him, because there they were, taking a moment to talk to him on the telephone.

I think of how my phone-call outreach for a non-profit ministry changed after I got some Spiritual Direction training. I would ask people how they got involved in serving folks experiencing homelessness, but then I would just give them some silence after their answer, in case they wanted to say more. Or I would ask the same question again, to see if they wanted to give a more honest answer.

"Oh yes," someone would say, "my friend told me about this organization." And then I would pause, or ask again why it was important to them, and they would say, "Oh, and my brother has been homeless for the last twenty five years."

Faith community nurses, health ministers, members of congregations: we thrive on human contact, and we miss gently lifting someone's sleeve to check a blood pressure, or sharing a warm hug after a difficult diagnosis.

But fear not: we can absolutely bring sacred presence over a phone call. Truth be told, I have been lifted and inspired and held in love by a kind text, by a facebook message, and by other even more ridiculous kinds of digital contact.

So may you rest assured: in this strange season, your phone calls matter. Your phone calls are sacred space. Your phone calls are ministry of love and healing.

Rev. David C. R. Weasley

Pastor for Youth, Young Adults, & Mission

First Congregational Church, Bellingham, WA

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